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' r - ^fci< 

A Survey of Russian 

Literature, with 






Cf)e (ftfjautauqua ^ress 





One Copv Rc C( .-, vl r D 

NOV, 24 1902 

Copyright entry 

CLASS «^XXa No. 

% 2. f / 

Copyright, 1902, by 

7%* Lakeside Press, Chicago, III., U. S. A. 
R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company 



I. The Ancient Period, from the Earliest 
Times to the Introduction of Christian- 
ity in 988 1 
II. The Ancient Period, from the Introduc- 
tion of Christianity to the Tatar 
Dominion, 988-1224 - - - 39 

III. Second Period, from the Tatar Dominion 

to the Time of Ivan the Terrible, 1224- 
1330 - 47 

IV. Third Period, from the Time of Ivan the 

Terrible, 1530, to the Middle of the 
Seventeenth Century - - 50 

V. Fourth Period, from the Middle of the 
Seventeenth Century to the Epoch of 
Reform under Peter the Great - 61 

VI. Fifth Period, the Reign of Peter the 

Great, 1689-1723 - - - - 66 

VII. Sixth Period, the Reign of Katherine II., 

1762-1796 - - - - 1 - 80 

VIII. Seventh Period, from Pushkin to the 

Writers of the Forties - - 123 

IX. Seventh Period: Gontcharoff, Grigoro- 

vitch, Turgeneff - - - - 161 

X. Seventh Period: Ostrovsky, A. K. Tolstoy, 
polonsky, nekrasoff, shevtchenko, and 
Others - - - - - - 181 

xl dostoevsky ----- 212 

XII. Seventh Period: Danilevsky, Saltykoff, L. 

N. Tolstoy, Gorky, and Others - - 229 


In this volume I have given exclusively the views of 
Russian critics upon their literature, and hereby acknowl- 
edge my entire indebtedness to them. 

The limits of the work, and the lack of general knowl- 
edge on the subject, rendered it impossible for me to 
attempt any comparisons with foreign literatures. 

Isabel F. Hapgood. 
New York, June 6, 1902. 




Whether Russia had any literature, or even a distinctive 
alphabet, previous to the end of the tenth century, is not 

In the year 988, Vladimir, Grand Prince of Kieff, 
accepted Christianity for himself and his nation, from 
Byzantium, and baptized Russia wholesale. Hence his 
characteristic title in history, "Prince-Saint-equal-to-the- 
Apostles." His grandmother, Olga, had already been 
converted to the Greek Church late in life, and had estab- 
lished churches and priests in Kieff, it is said. Prince 
Vladimir could have been baptized at home, but he pre- 
ferred to make the Greek form of Christianity his state 
religion in a more decided manner; to adopt the gospel of 
peace to an accompaniment of martial deeds. Accord- 
ingly he compelled the Emperors of Byzantium, by force, 
to send the Patriarch of Constantinople to baptize him, 
and their sister to become his wife. He then ordered 
his subjects to present themselves forthwith for baptism. 
Finding that their idols did not punish Vladimir for de- 
stroying them, and that even great Perun the Thunderer 

2 Russian Literature 

did not resent being flung into the Dniepr, the people 
quietly and promptly obeyed. As their old religion had 
no temples for them to cling to, and nothing approaching 
a priestly class (except the volkhvye, or wizards) to en- 
courage them in opposition, the nation became Christian 
in a day, to all appearances. We shall see, however, that 
in many cases, as in other lands converted from heathen- 
dom, the old gods were merely baptized with new names, 
in company with their worshipers. 

Together with the religion which he imported from 
Byzantium, "Prince-Saint" Vladimir naturally imported, 
also, priests, architects, artists for the holy pictures {iko'ni), 
as well as the traditional style of painting them, ecclesi- 
astical vestments and vessels, and — most precious of all — 
the Slavonic translation of the holy Scriptures and of the 
Church Service books. These books, however, were 
not written in Greek, but in the tongue of a cognate Sla- 
vonic race, which was comprehensible to the Russians. 
Thus were the first firm foundations of Christianity, edu- 
cation, and literature simultaneously laid in the cradle of 
the present vast Russian empire, appropriately called 
"Little Russia," of which Kieff was the capital; although 
even then they were not confined to that section of the 
country, but were promptly extended, by identical meth- 
ods, to old Novgorod — "Lord Novgorod the Great," the 
cradle of the dynasty of Rurik, founder of the line of 
sovereign Russian princes 

Whence came these Slavonic translations of the Scrip- 
tures, the Church Services, and other books, and the 
preachers in the vernacular for the infant Russian nation? 
The books had been translated about one hundred and 
twenty-five years previously, for the benefit of a small Sla- 

The Ancient Period 3 

vonic tribe, the Moravians. This tribe had been baptized 
by German ecclesiastics, whose books and speech, in the 
Latin tongue, were wholly incomprehensible to their con- 
verts. For fifty years Latin had been used, and naturally 
Christianity had made but little progress. Then the 
Moravian Prince Rostislaff appealed to Michael, emperor 
of Byzantium, to send him preachers capable of making 
themselves understood. The emperor had in his domin- 
ions many Slavonians; hence the application, on the 
assumption that there must be, among the Greek priests, 
many who were acquainted with the languages of the Sla- 
vonic tribes. In answer to this appeal, the Emperor 
Michael dispatched to Moravia two learned monks, Kyrill 
and Methody, together with several other ecclesiastics, in 
the year 863. 

Kyrill and Methody were the sons of a grandee, who 
resided in the chief town of Macedonia, which was sur- 
rounded by Slavonic colonies. The elder brother, Meth- 
ody, had been a military man, and the governor of a 
province containing Slavonians. The younger, Kyrill, 
had received a brilliant education at the imperial court, in 
company with the Emperor Michael, and had been a pupil 
of the celebrated Photius (afterwards Patriarch), and 
librarian of St. Sophia, after becoming a monk. Later 
on, the brothers had led the life of itinerant missionaries, 
and had devoted themselves to preaching the Gospel to 
Jews and Mohammedans. Thus they were in every way 
eminently qualified for their new task. 

The Slavonians in the Byzantine empire, and the cog- 
nate tribes who dwelt nearer the Danube, like the Moravi- 
ans, had long been in sore need of a Slavonic translation 
of the Scriptures and the Church books, since they under- 

4 Russian Literature 

stood neither Greek nor Latin; and for the lack of such a 
translation many relapsed into heathendom. Kyrill first 
busied himself with inventing an alphabet which should 
accurately reproduce all the varied sounds of the Slavonic 
tongues. Tradition asserts that he accomplished this task 
in the year 855, founding it upon the Greek alphabet, 
appropriating from the Hebrew, Armenian, and Coptic 
characters for the sounds which the Greek characters did 
not represent, and devising new ones for the nasal sounds. 
The characters in this alphabet were thirty-eight in num- 
ber. Kyrill, with the aid of his brother Methody, then 
proceeded to make his translations of the Church Service 
books. The Bulgarians became Christians in the year 
861, and these books were adopted by them. But the 
greatest activity of the brothers was during the four and 
a half years beginning with the year 862, when they trans- 
lated the holy Scriptures, taught the Slavonians their new 
system of reading and writing, and struggled with heathen- 
dom and with the German priests of the Roman Church, 
These German ecclesiastics are said to have sent petition 
after petition to Rome, to Pope Nicholas I., demonstrat- 
ing that the Word of God ought to be preached in three 
tongues only — Hebrew, Greek, and Latin — "because the 
inscription on the Cross had been written by Pilate in those 
tongues only." Pope Nicholas summoned the brothers 
to Rome; but Pope Adrian II., who was reigning in his 
stead when they arrived there, received them cordially, 
granted them permission to continue their preaching and 
divine services in the Slavonic language, and even conse- 
crated Methody bishop of Pannonia; after which Methody 
returned to Moravia, but Kyrill, exhausted by his labors, 
withdrew to a monastery near Rome, and died there in 869. 

The Ancient Period 5 

The language into which Kyrill and Methody translated 
was probably the vernacular of the Slavonian tribes dwelling 
between the Balkans and the Danube. But as the system 
invented by Kyrill took deepest root in Bulgaria (whither, 
in 886, a year after Methody's death, his disciples were 
banished from Moravia), the language preserved in the 
ancient transcripts of the holy Scriptures came in time to be 
called " Ancient Bulgarian." In this connection, it must 
be noted that this does not indicate the language of the 
Bulgarians, but merely the language of the Slavonians who 
lived in Bulgaria. The Bulgarians themselves did not 
belong to the Slavonic, nor even to the Indo-European 
race, but were of Ural- Altaic extraction; that is to say, 
they belonged to the family now represented in Europe by 
the Finns, Turks, Hungarians, Tatars, and Samoyeds. 
In the seventh century, this people, which had inhabited 
the country lying between the Volga and the Don, in 
southeastern Russia, became divided: one section moved 
northward, and settled on the Kama River, a tributary of 
the Volga; the other section moved westward, and made 
their appearance on the Danube, at the close of the 
seventh century. There they subdued a considerable por- 
tion of the Slavonic inhabitants, being a warlike race; but 
the Slavonians, who were more advanced in agriculture 
and more industrious than the Bulgarians, effected a 
peaceful conquest over the latter in the course of the two 
succeeding centuries, so that the Bulgarians abandoned 
their own language and customs, and became completely 
merged with the Slavonians, to whom they had given their 

When the Slavonic translations of the Scriptures and 
the Church Service books were brought to Russia from 

6 Russian Literature 

Bulgaria and Byzantium, the language in which they were 
written received the name of "Church Slavonic/ ' because 
it differed materially from the Russian vernacular, and 
was used exclusively for the church services. Moreover, 
as in the early days of Russian literature the majority of 
writers belonged to the ecclesiastical class, the literary or 
book language was gradually evolved from a mixture 
of Church Slavonic and ancient Russian; and in this lan- 
guage all literature was written until the "civil," or secu- 
lar, alphabet and language were introduced by Peter the 
Great, at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Books 
were written in "Kyrillian" characters until the sixteenth 
century, and the first printed books (which date from that 
century) were in the same characters. The most ancient 
manuscripts, written previous to the fourteenth century, 
are very beautiful, each letter being set separately, and 
the capital letters often assuming the form of fantastic 
beasts and birds, or of flowers, or gilded. The oldest 
manuscript of Russian work preserved dates from the 
middle of the eleventh century — a magnificent parchment 
copy of the Gospels, made by Deacon Grigory for Ostro- 
mir, the burgomaster of Novgorod (105 6- 1 05 7), and hence 
known as "the Ostromir Gospels." 

But before we deal with the written and strictly speak- 
ing literary works of Russia, we must make acquaintance 
with the oral products of the people's genius, which ante- 
date it, or at all events, contain traces of such hoary 
antiquity that history knows nothing definite concerning 
them, although they deserve precedence for their origi- 
nality. Such are the skdzki, or tales, the poetical folk- 
lore, the epic songs, the religious ballads. The fairy tales, 
while possessing analogies with those of other lands, have 

The Ancient Period 7 

their characteristic national features. While less striking 
and original than, for example, the exquisite Esthonian 
legends, they are of great interest in the study of com- 
parative folk-lore. More important is the poetical folk- 
lore of Russia, concerning which neither tradition nor 
history can give us any clue in the matter of derivation or 
date. One thing seems reasonably certain: it largely con- 
sists of the relics of an extensive system of sorcery, in the 
form of fragmentary spells, exorcisms, incantations, and 
epic lays, or by liny. 

Song accompanies every action of the Russian peasant, 
from the cradle to the grave: the choral dances of spring, 
summer, and autumn, the games of the young people in 
their winter assemblies, marriages, funerals, and every 
phase of life, the sowing and the harvest, and so forth. 
The kazak songs, robber songs, soldiers' songs, and 
historical songs are all descendants or imitators of the 
ancient poetry of Russia. They are the remains of the 
third — the Moscow or imperial — cycle of the epic songs, 
which deals with really historical characters and events. 
The Moscow cycle is preceded by the cycles of Vladimir, 
or Kieff, and of Novgorod. Still more ancient must be 
the foundations of the marriage songs, rooted in the cus- 
toms of the ancient Slavonians. 

The Slavonians do not remember the date of their 
arrival in Europe. Tradition says that they first dwelt, 
after this arrival, along the Danube, whence a hostile 
force compelled them to emigrate to the northeast. At 
last Novgorod and Kieff were built; and the Rus- 
sians, the descendants of these eastern Slavonians, nat- 
urally inherited the religion which must at one time, 
like the language, have been common to all the Slavonic 

8 Russian Literature 

races. This religion, like that of all Aryan races, was 
founded on reverence paid to the forces of nature and 
to the spirits of the dead. Their gods and goddesses 
represented the forces of nature. Thus Lado and Lada, 
who are frequently mentioned in these ancient songs, are 
probably the sun-god, and the goddess of spring and of 
love, respectively. Lado, also, is mentioned as the god 
of marriage, mirth, pleasure, and general happiness, to 
whom those about to marry offered sacrifices; and much 
the same is said of the goddess Lada. Moreover, in the 
Russian folk-songs, lado and lada are used, respectively, 
for lover, bridegroom, husband, and for mistress, bride, 
wife; and lad, in Russian, signifies peace, union, har- 
mony. Nestor, the famous old Russian chronicler (he 
died in 1 1 14), states that in ancient heathen times, marriage 
customs varied somewhat among the various Slavonian 
tribes in the vicinity of the Dniester; but brides were 
always seized or purchased. This purchase of the bride 
is supposed to be represented in the game and choral song 
(k/wrovdd), called "The Sowing of the Millet." The 
singers form two choirs, which face each other and ex- 
change remarks. The song belongs to the vernal rites, 
hence the reference to Lado, which is repeated after every 
line — Did- Lado, meaning (in Lithuanian) Great Lado: 

First Chorus: We have sown, we have sown millet, Oi, Did- 
Lddo, we have sown! 

Second Chorus: But we will trample it, Oi, Did-Lddo, we 
will trample it. 

First Chorus: But wherewith will ye trample it? 

Second Chorus: Horses will we turn into it. 

First Chorus: But we will catch the horses. 

Second Chorus: Wherewith will ye catch them? 

First Chorus: With a silken rein. 

The Ancient Period 9 

Second Chorus: But we will ransom the horses. 
First Chorus: Wherewith will ye ransom them? 
Second Chorus: We will give a hundred rubles. 
First Chorus: A thousand is not what we want. 
Second Chorus: What is it then, that ye want? 
First Chorus: What we want is a maiden. 

Thereupon, one of the girls of the second choir goes 
over to the first, both sides singing together: "Our band 
has lost, ,, and "Our band has gained." The game ends 
when all the girls have gone over to one side. 

The funeral wails are also very ancient. While at the 
present day a very talented wailer improvises a new plaint, 
which her associates take up and perpetuate, the ancient 
forms are generally used. 

From the side of the East, 

The wild winds have arisen, 

With the roaring thunders 

And the lightnings fiery. 

On my father's grave 

A star hath fallen, 

Hath fallen from heaven. 

Split open, O dart of the thunder! 

Damp Mother Earth, 

Fall thou apart, O Mother Earth! 

On all four sides, 

Split open, O coffin planks, 

Unfold, O white shroud, 

Fall away, O white hands 

From over the bold heart, 

And become parted, O ye sweet lips. 

Turn thyself, O mine own father 

Into a bright, swift-winged falcon; 

Fly away to the blue sea, to the Caspian Sea, 

Wash off, O mine own father, 

From thy white face the mold. 

io Russian Literature 

Come flying, O my father 

To thine own home, to the lofty terem * 

Listen, O my father, 

To our songs of sadness! 

The Christmas and New- Year carols offer additional 
illustrations of the ancient heathen customs, and mythic 
or ritual poetry. The festival which was almost univer- 
sally celebrated at Christmas-tide, in ancient heathen 
times, seems to have referred to the renewed life attributed 
to the sun after the winter solstice. The Christian church 
turned this festival, so far as possible, into a celebration 
of the birth of Christ. Among the Slavonians this festival 
was called Kolyada; and the sun — a female deity — was 
supposed to array herself in holiday robes and head-dress, 
when the gloom of the long nights began to yield to the 
cheerful lights of the lengthening days, to seat herself in 
her chariot, and drive her steeds briskly towards summer. 
She, like the festival, was called Kolyada; and in some 
places the people used to dress up a maiden in white and 
carry her about in a sledge from house to house, while the 
kolyddki, or carols, were sung by the train of young people 
who attended her, and received presents in return. One 
of the kolyddki runs as follows: 

Kolyada! Kolyada! 

Kolyada has arrived! 

On the Eve of the Nativity, 

We went about, we sought Holy Kolydda; 

Through all the courts, in all the alleys. 

We found Kolyada in Peter's Court. 

Round Peter's Court there is an iron fence, 

In the midst of the Court there are three rooms; 

In the first room is the bright Moon; 

*A Tatar word, signifying "tower" ; used to mean the part of the house 
where the women were secluded, in Oriental fashion. 

The Ancient Period 1 1 

In the second room is the red Sun; 

And in the third room are the many Stars. 

A Christian turn is given to many of them, just as the 
Mermen bear a special Biblical name in some places, and 
are called "Pharaohs"; for like the seals on the coast of 
Iceland, they are supposed to be the remnants of Pharaoh's 
host, which was drowned in the Red Sea. One of the 
most prominent and interesting of these Christianized 
carols is the Sldva, or Glory Song. Extracts from it 
have been decoratively and most appropriately used on the 
artistic programmes connected with the coronation of the 
Emperor Nicholas II. This Glory Song is used in the fol- 
lowing manner: The young people assemble together to 
deduce omens from the words that are sung, while trinkets 
belonging to each person present are drawn at random 
from a cloth-covered bowl, in which they have been de- 
posited. This is the first song of the series: 

Glory to God in Heaven, Glory! 

To our Lord* on this earth, Glory! 

May our Lord never grow old, Glory! 

May his bright robes never be spoiled, Glory! 

May his good steeds never be worn out, Glory! 

May his trusty servants never falter, Glory! 

May the right throughout Russia, Glory! 

Be fairer than the bright sun, Glory! 

May the Tzar's golden treasury, Glory! 

Be forever full to the brim, Glory! 

May the great rivers, Glory! 

Bear their renown to the sea, Glory! 

The little streams to the mill, Glory! 

But this song we sing to the Grain, Glory! 

To the Grain we sing, the Grain we honor, Glory! 

* Lord, in the original, is Gosudar, the word which, with a capital, is 
applied especially to the emperor. 

12 Russian Literature 

For the old folks to enjoy, Glory! 
For the young folks to hear, Glory! * 

Another curious old song, connected with the grain, is 
sung at the New- Year. Boys go about from house to 
house, scattering grain of different sorts, chiefly oats, and 

In the forest, in the pine forest, 

There stood a pine-tree, 

Green and shaggy. 

O, Ovsen! O, Ovsen! 

The Boyars came, 

Cut down the pine, 

Sawed it into planks, 

Built a bridge, 

Covered it with cloth, 

Fastened it with nails, 

O, Ovsen! O, Ovsen! 

Who, who will go 

Along that bridge? 

Ovsen will go there, 

And the New-Year, 

O, Ovsen! O, Ovsen! 

Ovsen, whose name is derived from Oves (oats, pro- 
nounced avyds), like the Teutonic Sun-god, is supposed to 
ride a pig or a boar. Hence sacrifices of pigs' trotters, 
and other pork products, were offered to the gods at the 
New- Year, and such dishes are still preferred in Russia at 
that season. It must be remembered that the New- Year 
fell on March 1st in Russia until 1348; then the civil 
New- Year was transferred to September 1st, and Janu- 
ary 1st was instituted as the New- Year by Peter the Great 
only in the year 1700. 

* The dramatist Ostrovsky has made effective use of this game, and the 
more prophetic couplets of the song, in his famous play: " Poverty is not 
a Vice." Other national customs and songs are used in his play. 

The Ancient Period 13 

The highest stage of development reached by popular 
song is the heroic epos — the rhythmic story of the deeds of 
national heroes, either historical or mythical. In many 
countries these epics were committed to writing at a very 
early date. In western Europe this took place in the 
Middle Ages, and they are known to the modern world in 
that form only, their memory having completely died out 
among the people. But Russia presents the striking phe- 
nomenon of a country where epic song, handed down 
wholly by oral tradition for nearly a thousand years, is not 
only flourishing at the present day in certain districts, but 
even extending into fresh fields. 

It is only within the last sixty years that the Russians 
have become generally aware that their country possesses 
this wonderfully rich treasure of epic, religious, and cere- 
monial songs. In some cases, the epic lay and the reli- 
gious ballad are curiously combined, as in "The One and 
Forty Pilgrims," which is generally classed with the epic 
songs, however. But while the singing of the epic songs 
is not a profession, the singing of the religious ballads is 
of a professional character, and is used as a means of live- 
lihood by the kalyeki perekhozhie, literally, wandering 
cripples, otherwise known as wandering psalm-singers. 
These stikhi, or religious ballads, are even more remark- 
able than the epic songs in some respects, and practically 
nothing concerning them is accessible in English. 

In all countries where the Roman Church reigned 
supreme in early times, it did its best to consign all popu- 
lar religious poetry to oblivion. But about the seventeenth 
century it determined to turn such fragments as had sur- 
vived this procedure to its own profit. Accordingly they 
were written over in conformity with its particular tenets, 

14 Russian Literature 

for the purpose of inculcating its doctrines. Both courses 
were equally fatal to the preservation of anything truly 
national. Incongruousness was the inevitable result. 

The Greek, or rather the Russo-Greek, Church adopted 
precisely the opposite course: it never interfered, in the 
slightest degree, with popular poetry, either secular or 
religious. Christianity, therefore, merely enlarged the 
field of subjects. The result is, that the Slavonic peoples 
(including even, to some extent, the Roman Catholic Poles) 
possess a mass of religious poetry, the like of which, either 
in kind or in quantity, is not to be found in all western 

It is well to note, at this point, that the word stikh 
(derived from an ancient Greek word) is incorporated into 
the modern Russian word for poetry, stikhotvorinie — 
verse-making, literally rendered — and it has now become 
plain that Lomonosoff, the father of Russian Literature, 
who was the first secular Russian poet, and polished the 
ancient tongue into the beginning of the modern literary 
language, about the middle of the eighteenth century, did 
not originate his verse-measures, but derived them from 
the common people, the peasants, whence he himself 
sprang. Modern Russian verse, therefore, is thus traced 
back directly, in its most national traits, to these religious 
ballads. It is impossible to give any adequate account of 
them here, and it is especially difficult to convey an ade- 
quate idea of the genuine poetry and happy phrasing 
which are often interwoven with absurdities approaching 
the grotesque. 

The ballads to which we shall briefly refer are full of 
illustrations of the manner in which old pagan gods became 
Christian deities, so to speak, of the newly baptized nation. 

The Ancient Period 1.5 

For example: Perun the Thunder-god became, in popu- 
lar superstition, "St. Ilya" (or Elijah), and the day dedi- 
cated to him, July 20th (old style), is called "Ilya the 
Thunder-bringer." Elijah's fiery chariot, the lightning, 
rumbling across the sky, brings a thunder-storm on or very 
near that date; and although Perun's name is forgotten in 
Russia proper, he still remains, under his new title, the 
patron of the husbandman, as he was in heathen times. 
In the epic songs of the Vladimir cycle, as well as in the 
semi-religious and religious ballads, he figures as the 
strongest and most popular hero, under the name of "Ilya 
Murometz (Ilya of Murom), the Old Kazak," and his 
characteristic feats, as well as those attributed to his 
"heroic steed, Cloud-fall," are supposed, by the school of 
Russian writers who regard all these poems as cosmic 
myths, rather than as historical poems, to preserve the 
hero's mythological significance as the Thunder-god 

He plays a similar part in the very numerous religious 
ballads on the Last Judgment. St. Michael acts as the 
judge. Some "sinful souls" commit the gross error of 
attempting to bribe him: whereupon, Michael shouts, 
"Ilya the Prophet! Anakh! Take ye guns with great 
thunder! Move ye the Pharaoh mountains of stone! 
Let me not hear from these sinners, neither a whine nor a 

In Lithuania the Thunder-god's ancient name is still 
extant in its original form of Perkun; the Virgin Mary is 
called, "Lady Mary Perkunatele" (or "The Mother of 
Thunder"), according to a Polish tradition; and in the 
Russian government of Vilna, the 2d of February is dedi- 
cated to "All-Holy Mary the Thunderer." It is evidently 

1 6 Russian Literature 

in this character that she plays a part similar to that of 
St. Michael and Ilya the Prophet combined, as above 
mentioned, in another ballad of the Last Judgment. She 
appears in this ballad to be the sole inhabitant of heaven, 
judge and executioner. With her "thundering voice" she 
condemns to outer darkness all who have not paid Jier 
proper respect, promising to bury them under "damp 
mother earth and burning stones." To the just, that is, 
to those who have paid her due homage, she says: "Come, 
take the thrones, the golden crowns, the imperishable robes 
which I have prepared for you ; and if this seem little to 
you, ye shall work your will in heaven." 

St. Yegory the Brave — our St. George — possesses 
many of the attributes of Perun. He is, however, a 
purely mythical character, and the extremely ancient reli- 
gious poems relating to him present the most amusing 
mixture of Christianity and Greek mythology, as in the 
following example: 

In the year 8008 (the old Russian reckoning, like the 
Jewish, began with the creation of the world), the kingdoms 
of Sodom, Komor (Gomorrah), and Arabia met their doom. 
Sodom dropped through the earth, Komor was destroyed 
by fire, and Arabia was afflicted by a sea-monster which 
demanded a human victim every day. This victim was 
selected by lot; and one day the lot fell upon the king; 
but at the suggestion of the queen, who hated her 
daughter, Elizabeth the Fair, the girl was sent in his 
place, under the pretext that she was going to meet her 
bridegroom. Yegory the Brave comes to her assistance, 
as Perseus did to the assistance of Andromeda, but lies 
down for a nap while awaiting the arrival of the dragon. 
The beast approaches; Elizabeth dares not awaken Yeg- 

The Ancient Period 17 

ory, but a "burning tear" from her right eye arouses him. 
He attacks the dragon with his spear, and his "heroic 
steed" (which is sometimes a white mule) tramples on it, 
after the fashion with which we are familiar in art. Then 
he binds Elizabeth's sash, which is "five and forty ells in 
length," about the dragon's jaws, and bids the maiden 
have three churches built in honor of her deliverance : one 
to St. Nicholas and the Holy Trinity, one to the All-Holy 
Birth-giver of God, and one to Yegory the Brave. Eliza- 
beth the Fair then returns to town, leading the tamed 
dragon by her sash, to the terror of the inhabitants and to 
the disgust of her mother. The three churches are duly 
built, and Christianity is promptly adopted as the state 
religion of Arabia. In another ballad, Yegory is impris- 
oned for thirty years in a pit under the ground, because 
he will not accept the "Latin-Mussulman faith." 

Among the most ancient religious ballads, properly 
speaking, are: "The Dove Book," "The Merciful 
Woman of Compassion" (or "The Alleluia Woman"), 
"The Wanderings of the All-Holy Birth-giver of God," 
in addition to the songs about Yegory the Brave, already 
mentioned. The groundwork of "The Dove Book" is of 
very ancient heathen origin, and almost identical with the 
oldest religious songs of the Greeks. The book itself is 
somewhat suggestive of the "little book" in Revelation. 
"The Dove Book" falls from Alatyr, the "burning white 
stone on the Island of Buyan," the heathen Paradise, 
which corresponds to our Fortunate Isles of the Blest, in 
the Western Sea, but lies far towards sunrise, in the 
"Ocean Sea." The heathen significance of this stone is 
not known, but it is cleverly explained in "The Dove 
Book" as the stone whereon Christ stood when he preached 

1 8 Russian Literature 

to his disciples. This "little book," "forty fathoms long 
and twenty wide," was written by St. John the Evangel- 
ist, and no man can read it. The prophet Isaiah deciphered 
only three pages of it in as many years. But the "Most 
Wise Tzar David" undertakes to give, from memory, the 
book's answers to various questions put to him by Tzar 
Vladimir, as spokesman of a throng of emperors and 
princes. A great deal of curious information is con- 
veyed — all very poetically expressed — including some odd 
facts in natural history, such as: that the ostrich is the 
mother of birds, and that she lives, feeds, and rears her 
young on the blue sea, drowning mariners and sinking 
ships. Whenever she (or the whale on which the earth 
rests) moves, an earthquake ensues. There are several 
versions of this ballad. The following abridged extracts, 
from one version, will show its style.' Among the ques- 
tions put to "the Most Wise Tzar David" by Prince 
Vladimir are some touching "the works of God, and our 
life; our life of holy Russia, our life in the free world; how 
the free light came to us; why our sun is red; why our 
stars are thickly sown; why our nights are dark; what 
causes our red dawns; why we have fine, drizzling rains; 
whence cometh our intellect; why our bones are strong"; 
and so forth. 

Tzar David replies: "Our free white light began at 
God's decree; the sun is red from the reflection of God's 
face, of the face of Christ, the King of Heaven; the 
younger light, the moon, from his bosom cometh; the 
myriad stars are from his vesture; the dark nights are 
the Lord's thoughts; the red dawns come from the Lord's 
eyes; the stormy winds from the Holy Spirit; our intel- 
lects from Christ himself, the King of Heaven; our 

The Ancient Period 19 

thoughts from the clouds of heaven; our world of people 
from Adam; our strong bones from the stones; our bodies 
from the damp earth; our blood from the Black Sea." 
In answer to other questions, Tzar David explains that 
"the Jordan is the mother of all rivers, because Jesus Christ 
was baptized in it; the cypress is the mother of all trees, 
because Christ was crucified on it; the ocean is the mother 
of all seas, because in the middle of the ocean-sea rose up 
a cathedral church, the goal of all pilgrimages, the cathe- 
dral of St. Clement, the pope of Rome; from this cathedral 
the Queen of Heaven came forth, bathed herself in the 
ocean-sea, prayed to God in the cathedral," which is a 
very unusual touch of Romanism. 

The ancient religious ballads have no rhyme; and, 
unlike the epic songs, no fixed rhythm. The presence 
of either rhyme or rhythm is an indication of compar- 
atively recent origin or of reconstruction in the sixteenth 

"The Merciful Woman of Compassion," or "The 
Alleluia Woman," dates from the most ancient Christian 
tradition, and is a model of simplicity and beauty. It is 
allied to the English ballad of "The Flight into Egypt" 
(which also occurs among the Christmas carols of the Sla- 
vonians of the Carpathian Mountains), in which the Virgin 
Mary works a miracle with the peasant's grain, in order to 
save Christ from the Jews in pursuit. The Virgin comes 
to the "Alleluia Woman," with the infant Christ in her 
arms, saying: "Cast thy child into the oven, and take 
Christ the Lord in thy lap. His enemies, the Jews, are 
hastening hither; they seek to kill Christ the Lord with 
sharp spears." The Alleluia Woman obeys, without an 
instant's hesitation. When the Jews arrive, immediately 

20 Russian Literature 

afterwards, and inquire if Christ has passed that way, she 
says she has thrown him into the oven. The Jews are 
convinced of the truth of her statement, by the sight of a 
child's hand amid the flames; whereupon they dance for 
joy, and depart, after fastening an iron plate over the oven 
door. Christ vanishes from the arms of the merciful 
woman; she remembers her own child and begins to weep. 
Then Christ's voice assures her that he is well and happy. 
On opening the oven door, she beholds her baby playing 
with the flowers in a rich green meadow, reading the Gos- 
pels, or rolling an apple on a platter, and comforted by 

"The Wanderings of the All-Holy Birth-giver of 
God," another very ancient ballad, represents the Virgin 
Mother wandering among the mountains in search of 
Christ. She encounters three Jews; and in answer to her 
query, "Accursed Jews, what have ye done with Christ?" 
they inform her that they have just crucified him on Mount 
Zion. She hastens thither, and swoons on arriving. 
When she recovers, she makes her lament, and her plakh, 
or wail, beginning: "O, my dear son, why didst thou not 
obey thy mother?" Christ comforts her, telling her that 
he shall rise again, and bidding her: "Do not weep and 
spoil thy beauty." A form of the ballad which is com- 
mon in Little Russia reverses the situation. It is the 
Jews who inquire of Mary what she has done with her son. 
"Into the river I flung him/' she promptly replies. They 
drain the river, and find him not. Again they ask, 
"Under the mountains I buried him." They dig up the 
mountains, and find him not. At last they discover a 
church, and in it three coffins. Over the Holy Virgin's, 
the birds are warbling or flowers are blossoming; over 

The Ancient Period 21 

John the Baptist's, lights are burning; over Christ's, 
angels are singing. 

As might be expected, the Holy Virgin is a very popu- 
lar subject of song. In numerous ballads she delivers a 
temperance lecture to St. Vasily the Great on his drunken- 
ness, putting to him various questions, such as, "Who 
sleeps through matins? Who walks and riots during the 
liturgy?" [St. Vasily being the author of a liturgy which 
is used on certain important occasions during the church 
year.] "Who has unwashed hands? Who is a murderer? " 
and so on, through a long list of peccadilloes and crimes. 
The answer to each question is, "The drunkard." Poor 
St. Vasily dashes his head against a stone, and threatens 
to put an end to himself on the spot, if his one lapse in 
five and twenty years be not forgiven. Accordingly the 
Holy Virgin steps down from her throne, gives him her 
hand, and informs him that the Lord has three mansions: 
one is the House of David, where the Last Judgment will 
take place; through the second flows a river of fire, the 
destination of wizards, drunkards, and the like; and the 
third is Paradise, the home of the elect. The imagery in 
the very numerous and ancient poems on the Last Judg- 
ment, by the way, is purely heathen in character. The 
ferryman over the river of fire sometimes acts as the judge, 
and the punishments to which sinners are condemned by 
him recall those mentioned in the ^Eneid, and in Dante's 
Divina Commedia, the frescoes on the walls of churches 
bearing out the same idea. 

Adam and Eve naturally receive a share of the min- 
strel's attention, and "Adam's Wail" before the gates of 
Paradise is often very touching. In a ballad from White 
Russia, Adam begs the Lord to permit him to revisit 

22 Russian Literature 

Paradise. The Lord accordingly gives orders to "St. 
Peter-Paul" to admit Adam to Paradise, to have the song 
of the Cherubim sung for him, and so forth; but not to 
allow him to remain. In the midst of Paradise Adam 
beholds his coffin and wails before it: "O, my coffin, 
coffin, my true home ! Take me, O my coffin, as a mother 
her own child, to thy white arms, to thy ruddy face, to 
thy warm heart!" But "St. Peter-Paul" soon catches 
sight of him, and tells him that he has no business to be 
strolling about and spying out Paradise; his place is on 
Zion's hill, where he will be shown books of magic, and 
of life, and things in general. 

There is a great mass of poetry devoted to Joseph; and 
a lament to "Mother Desert," uttered as he is being led 
away into captivity by the merchants to whom his brethren 
have sold him, soon becomes the groundwork for varia- 
tions in which the Scripture story is entirely forgotten. 
In these Joseph is always a "Tzarevitch, " or king's son, 
his father being sometimes David, sometimes "the Tzar 
of India," or of "the Idolaters' Land," or some such 
country. He is confined in a tower, because the sooth- 
sayers have foretold that he will become a Christian (or 
because he is already a Christian he shuts himself up). 
One day he is permitted to ride about the town, and 
although all old people have been ordered to keep out of 
sight, he espies one aged cripple, and thus learns that his 
father has grossly deceived him, in asserting that no one ever 
becomes old or ill in his kingdom. He forthwith becomes 
a Christian, and flees to the desert. Then comes his wail 
to "Mother Desert Most Fair," as she stands "afar off in 
the valley": "O Desert fair, receive me to thy depths, as 
a mother her own child, and a pastor his faithful sheep, 

The Ancient Period 23 

into thy voiceless quiet, beloved mother mine!" "Mother 
Desert" proceeds to remonstrate with her "beloved child" : 
"Who is to rule," she says, "over thy kingdom, thy 
palaces of white stone, thy young bride? When spring 
cometh, all the lakes will be aflood, all the trees will be 
clothed with verdure, heavenly birds will warble therein 
with voices angelic: in the desert thou wilt have none of 
this; thy food will be fir-bark, thy drink marsh-water." 
Nevertheless, "Joseph Tzarevitch" persists in his inten- 
tion, and Mother Desert receives him at last. Most ver- 
sions of this ballad are full of genuine poetry, but a few 
are rather ludicrous: for example, "Mother Desert" asks 
Joseph, "How canst thou leave thy sweet viands and soft 
feather-beds to come to me?" 

Of David, strange to say, we find very little mention, 
save in the "Dove Book," or as the father of Joseph, or 
of some other equally preposterous person. 

Among the ballads on themes drawn from the New 
Testament, those relating to the birth of Christ, and the 
visit of the Wise Men; to John the Baptist, and to Laza- 
rus, are the most numerous. The Three Wise Men some- 
times bring queer gifts. One ballad represents them as 
being Lithuanians, and only two in number, who bring 
Christ offerings of botvinya — a savory and popular dish, 
in the form of a soup served cold, with ice, and composed 
of small beer brewed from sour, black, rye bread, slightly 
thickened with strained spinach, in which float cubes of 
fresh cucumber, the green tops of young onions, cold 
boiled fish, horseradish, bacon, sugar, shrimps, any cold 
vegetables on hand, and whatever else occurs to the cook. 
Joseph stands by the window, holding a bowl and a spoon, 
and stares at the gift. "Queer people, you Lithuanians," 

24 Russian Literature 

he remarks. " Christ doesn't eat botvinya. He eats only- 
rolls with milk and honey (or rolls and butter)." In one 
case, the Three Wise Men appear as three buffaloes bring- 
ing gifts; in another as "the fine rain, the red sun, and 
the bright moon," showing that nature worship can 
assume a very fair semblance of Christianity. 

Christ's baptism is sometimes represented by his mother 
bathing him in the river; and this is thought to stand for 
the weary sun which is bathed every night in the ocean. 
A "Legend of the Sun," whose counterpart can be found 
in other lands, represents the sun as being attended by 
flaming birds, who dip their wings in the ocean at night 
and sprinkle him, and by angels who carry his imperial 
robe and crown to the Lord's throne every night, and 
clothe him again in them every morning, while the cock 
proclaims the "resurrection of all things." In the 
Christmas carols, angels perform the same offices, and the 
flaming phcenix-birds are omitted. 

The Apostle Peter's timid and disputatious character 
seems to be well understood by the people. One day, 
according to a ballad, he gets into a dispute with the 
Lord, as to which is the larger, heaven or earth. "The 
earth," declares St. Peter; "Heaven," maintains 
the Lord. "But let us not quarrel. Call down two or 
three angels to measure heaven and earth with a silken 
cord. So was it done; and lo! St. Peter was right, and 
the Lord was wrong! Heaven is the smaller, because it 
is all level, while the earth has hills and valleys!" 

On another occasion, "all the saints were sitting at 
table, except the Holy Spirit." "Peter, Peter, my ser- 
vant," says the Lord, "go bring the Holy Spirit." Peter 
has not traversed half the road, when he encounters a 

The Ancient Period 25 

wondrous marvel, a fearful fire. He trembles with fear 
and turns back. "Why hast thou not brought the Holy- 
Spirit? " inquires the Lord. Peter explains. "Ho, Peter, 
that is no marvel! that is the Holy Spirit. Thou shouldst 
have brought it hither and placed it on the table. All the 
saints would have rejoiced that the Holy Spirit sat before 

The Lazarus ballads illustrate how the people turn 
Scriptural characters into living realities, by incorporating 
their own observations on human nature with the sacred 
text. According to them, Lazarus and Dives were two 
brothers, both named Lazarus; the younger rich, the elder 
poor. Poor Lazarus begs alms of his brother: "How 
dare you call me brother?" retorts rich Lazarus. "I 
have brothers like myself — princes, nobles, wealthy mer- 
chants, who fare sumptuously and dress richly. Even the 
church dignitaries visit me. Your brethren are the fierce 
dogs which lie under my table and gather up the frag- 
ments. I fear not God, I will buy off intrusive death, I 
will attain to the kingdom of heaven; and if I attain not 
thereunto, I will buy it!" Thereupon, he sets the dogs 
on his brother, spits in his eye, locks the gates, and goes 
back to his feasting. The dogs which are set upon poor 
Lazarus bring him their food, instead of rending him. 
After three efforts to move his brother to compassion, 
poor Lazarus entreats the Lord to let him die: "Send 
sudden death, Lord, winged but not merciful," he prays. 
"Send two threatening angels; let them take out my 
unclean soul through my side with a hook, my little soul 
through my ribs, with a spear and with iron hooks; let 
them place my soul under their left wing, and carry it to 
the nethermost hell, to burning pitch and the river of fire. 

26 Russian Literature 

All my life have I suffered hunger and cold, and my whole 
body hath been full of pains. It is not for me, a poor 
cripple, to enter Paradise." (This is in accordance with 
the uncomfortable Russian belief that a man's rank and 
station in this life determine his fate in the other world.) 
But the Lord gives orders to have everything done in pre- 
cisely the opposite way. Holy angels remove Lazarus's 
soul gently, through his "sugar mouth" (referring, pos- 
sibly, to the Siberian belief that the soul is located in the 
windpipe) wrap it in a white cloth, and carry it to Abra- 
ham's bosom. After a while rich Lazarus is overtaken by 
misfortune and illness, and he, also, prays for speedy 
death, minutely specifying how his "large, clean soul," 
is to be handled and deposited in Abraham's bosom. He 
acknowledges that he has committed a few trivial sins, but 
mentions, with pride, in extenuation, that he has never 
worn anything but velvet and satin, and that he formerly 
possessed great store of "flowered garments." Again the 
Lord gives contrary orders, and rich Lazarus undergoes 
the treatment which his poor brother had indicated for his 
own soul. When rich Lazarus looks up from his torment 
and beholds poor Lazarus in Abraham's bosom, he ad- 
dresses him as "Brother, my own brother." Here one 
version comes to a sudden end, and the collector who 
transcribed it, asked: "What?" "He repented," an- 
swered the peasant woman who sang it, "and called him 
'brother' when he saw that he was well off." In other 
versions, a long conversation ensues, in the course of which 
poor Lazarus reminds rich Lazarus of numerous sins of 
omission and commission, and inquires, with great appar- 
ent solicitude, what has become of all his gold, silver, 
flowered garments, and so forth, and assures him that he 

The Ancient Period 27 

would gladly give him not a drop but a whole bucketful 
of water were he permitted to do so. 

But to the share of no saint does a greater number of 
songs (and festivals) fall than to that of John the Baptist. 
In addition to June 24th, which still bears the heathen 
name of Kupdlo, in connection with St. John's Eve, and 
which is celebrated by the peasants in as thoroughly 
heathen a fashion as is the Christmas festival, in honor of 
the Sun-goddess, Kolyada, he has three special days dedi- 
cated to him. Two of these deserve mention, because of 
a curious superstition attached to them. On St. John's 
Day, May 25th, the peasants set out their cabbages; but 
on the autumn St. John's Day, August 29th, they must 
carefully avoid all contact with cabbages, because it is the 
anniversary of the beheading of John; no knife must be 
taken in the hand on that day, and it is considered a great 
crime to cut anything, particularly anything round, resem- 
bling a head. If a cabbage be cut, blood will flow; if any- 
thing round be eaten — onions, for example — carbuncles 
will follow. 

In concluding this brief sketch of the religious ballads 
of the Slavonians, I venture to quote at length, a master- 
piece of the Wandering Cripples' art. It is a Montene- 
grin version of a legend which is common to all the 
Slavonic peoples, and contains, besides an interesting 
problem in ethics, an explanation of the present shape of 
the human foot. In some versions the emperor's crown 
is replaced, throughout, by "the bright sun," thus sug- 
gesting a mythological origin. It is called "The Emperor 
Diocletian and John the Baptist." 

Two foster brothers were drinking wine, 
On a sunny slope by the salt seaside; 

28 Russian Literature 

One was the Emperor Diocletian, 

The other, John the Baptist. 

Then up spake John the Baptist 

As they did drink the wine: 

" Foster brother, come now, let us play. 

Use thou thy crown; but I will take an apple." 

Then up they jumped, began to play, 

And St. John flung his apple. 

Down in the depths of the sea it fell 

And his warm tears trickled down. 

But the emperor held this speech to him: 

" Now weep not, dear my brother, 

Only carry thou not my crown away 

And I will fetch thy apple." 

Then did John swear to him by God 

That he would not steal the crown. 

The emperor swam out into the sea, 

But John flew up to heaven, 

Presented himself before the Lord, 

And held this speech to him: 

" Eternal God, and All-Holy Father! 

May I swear falsely by thee? 

May I steal the emperor's crown?" 

The Lord replied: 

" O John, my faithful servant! 

Thrice shalt thou swear falsely by me, 

Only, by my name must thou not swear." 

St. John flew back to the sunny slope, 

And the emperor emerged from the sea. 

Again they played; again John flung his apple; 

Again it fell into the depths of the sea. 

But Diocletian, the emperor, said to him: 

" Now, fear thou not, dear brother, 

Only carry thou my crown not away, 

And I will fetch thy apple." 

Then did John swear to him by God, 

Thrice did he swear to him by God 

That he would not steal his crown. 

The Ancient Period 29 

The emperor threw his crown under his cap, 

Beside them left the bird of ill omen, 

And plunged into the blue sea. 

St. John froze over the sea, 

With a twelve-fold ice-crust he froze it o'er, 

Seized the golden crown, flew on high to heaven. 

And the bird of ill omen began to caw. 

The emperor, at the bottom of the sea, divined the cause, 

Raced up, as for a wager, 

Brake three of the ice-crusts with his head, 

Then back turned he again, took a stone upon his head, 

A little stone of three thousand pounds, 

And brake the twelve-fold ice. 

Then unfolded he his wings, 

Set out in pursuit of John, 

Caught up with him at the gate of heaven, 

Seized him by his right foot, 

And what he grasped, he tore away. 

In tears came John before the Lord; 

The bright sun brought he to heaven, 

And John complained unto the Lord, 

That the emperor had crippled him. 

And the Lord said: 

" Fear not, my faithful servant! 

I will do the same to every man." 

Such is the fact, and to God be the glory! 

"Therefore," say the Servians, in conclusion of their 
version of this ballad, "God has made a hollow in the sole 
of every human being's foot." 

The Epic Songs, properly speaking, are broadly divisible 
into three groups: the Cycle of Vladimir, or of Kieff; that 
of Novgorod; and that of Moscow, or the Imperial Cycle, 
the whole being preceded by the songs of the elder heroes. 
With regard to the first two, and the Kieff Cycle in par- 
ticular, undoubtedly composed during the tenth, eleventh, 
and twelfth centuries, authorities on the origin of Russian 

30 Russian Literature 

literature differ considerably. One authority maintains 
that, although the Russian epics possess a family likeness 
to the heroic legends of other Aryan races, the Russians 
forgot them, and later on, appropriated them again from 
Ural-Altaic sources, adding a few historical and geographi- 
cal names, and psychical characteristics. But this view- 
as to the wholesale appropriation of Oriental myths has 
not been established, and the authorities who combat it 
demonstrate that the heroes are thoroughly Russian, and 
that the pictures of manners and customs which they 
present are extremely valuable for their accuracy. They 
would seem, on the whole, to be a characteristic mixture 
of natural phenomena (nature myths), personified as gods, 
who became in course of time legendary heroes. Thus, 
Prince Vladimir, "the Fair Red Sun," may be the Sun- 
god, but he is also a historical personage, whatever may 
be said as to many of the other characters in the epic lays 
of the Vladimir cycle. "Sadko, the rich Guest of Nov- 
gorod," also, in the song of that title, belonging to the 
Novgorod cycle, was a prominent citizen of Novgorod, 
who built a church in Novgorod, during the twelfth 
century, and is referred to in the Chronicles for a space 
of two hundred years. In fact, the Novgorod cycle 
contains less of the personified phenomena of nature 
than the cycle of the Elder Heroes, and the Kieff cycle, 
and more of the genuine historical element. 

A regular tonic versification forms one of the indis- 
pensable properties of these epic poems; irregularity of 
versification is a sign of decay, and a complete absence 
of measure, that is to say, the prose form, is the last 
stage of decay. The airs to which they are sung or 
chanted are very simple, consisting of but few tones, yet 

The Ancient Period 31 

are extremely difficult to note down. The peasant bard 
modifies the one or two airs to which he chants his lays 
with astonishing skill, according to the testimony of 
Rybnikoff, who made the first large collection of the 
songs, in the Olonetz government (1859), an d Hilferding, 
who made a still more surprising collection (1870), to the 
north and east of Olonetz. 

The lay of Sadko, above mentioned, is perhaps the 
most famous — the one most frequently alluded to in Rus- 
sian literature and art. Sadko was a harper of "Lord 
Novgorod the Great." "No golden treasures did he pos- 
sess. He went about to the magnificent feasts of the mer- 
chants and nobles, and made all merry with his playing." 
Once, for three days in succession, he was bidden to no 
worshipful feast, and in his sorrow he went and played all 
day long, upon the shore of Lake ilmen. On the third 
day, the Water King appears to him, and thanks him for 
entertaining his guests in the depths. He directs Sadko 
to return to Novgorod, and on the morrow, when he shall 
be bidden to a feast, and the banqueters begin the charac- 
teristic brags of their possessions, Sadko must wager his 
"turbulent head" against the merchants' shop in the 
bazaar, with all the precious wares therein, that Lake 
Ilmen contains fishes with fins of gold. Sadko wins the 
bet ; for the Tzar Vodyanoy sends up the fish to be caught 
in the silken net. Thus did Sadko become a rich guest 
(merchant of the first class) of Novgorod, built himself a 
palace of white stone, wondrously adorned, and became 
exceeding rich. He also held worshipful feasts, and out- 
bragged the braggers, declaring that he would buy all the 
wares in Novgorod, or forfeit thirty thousand in money. 
As he continues to buy, wares continue to flow into this 

32 Russian Literature 

Venice of the North, and Sadko decides that it is the part 
of wisdom to pay his thirty thousand. He then builds 
"thirty dark red ships and three," of the dragon type, 
lades them with the wares of Novgorod, and sails out into 
the open sea, via the river Volkhoff, Lake Ladoga, and 
the Neva. After a while the ships stand still and will 
not stir, though the waves dash and the breeze whistles 
through the sails. Sadko arrives at the conclusion that 
the Sea King demands tribute, as they have now been sail- 
ing the seas for twelve years, and have paid none. They 
cast into the waves casks of red gold, pure silver, and fair 
round pearls; but still the ships move not. Sadko then 
proposes that each man on board shall prepare for himself 
a lot, and cast it into the sea, and the man whose lot sinks 
shall consider himself the sacrifice which the Sea King 
requires. Sadko 's lot persists in sinking, whether he 
makes it of hop-flowers or of blue damaskeened steel, four 
hundred pounds in weight; and all the other lots swim, 
whether heavy or light. Accordingly Sadko perceives 
that he is the destined victim, and taking his harp, a holy 
image of St. Nicholas (the patron of travelers), and bowls 
of precious things with him, he has himself abandoned on 
an oaken plank, while his ships sailed off, and "flew as 
they had been black ravens." He sinks to the bottom, 
and finds himself in the palace of the Sea King, who makes 
him play, while he, the fair sea-maidens, and the other 
sea-folk dance violently. But the Tzaritza warns Sadko 
to break his harp, for it is the waves dancing on the shore, 
and creating terrible havoc. The Tzar Morskoy then 
requests Sadko to select a wife; and guided again by the 
Tzaritza's advice, Sadko selects the last of the nine hun- 
dred maidens who file before him — a small, black-visaged 

The Ancient Period 33 

maiden, named Tchernava. Had he chosen otherwise, 
he is told, he would never again behold "the white world," 
but must "forever abide in the blue sea." After a great 
feast which the Sea King makes for him, Sadko falls into 
a heavy sleep, and when he awakens from it, he finds 
himself on the bank of the Tchernava River, and sees his 
dark red ships come speeding up the Volkhoff River. 
Sadko returns to his palace and his young wife, builds 
two churches, and roams no more, but thereafter takes his 
ease in his own town. 

Between these cycles of epic songs and the Moscow, 
or Imperial Cycle there is a great gap. The pre-Tatar 
period is not represented, and the cycle proper begins with 
Ivan the Terrible, and ends with the reign of Peter the 
Great. Epic marvels are not wholly lacking in the Mos- 
cow cycle, evidently copied from the earlier cycles. But 
these songs are inferior in force. Fantastic as are some 
of the adventures in these songs, there is always a solid 
historical foundation. Ivan the Terrible, for instance, is 
credited with many deeds of his grandfather (his father 
being ignored), and is always represented in rather a favor- 
able light. The conquest of Siberia, the capture of Kazan 
and Astrakhan, the ' wars against Poland, and the Tatars 
of Crimea, and so forth, are the principal points around 
which these songs are grouped. But the Peter the Great of 
the epics bears only a faint resemblance to the real Peter. 

Perhaps the most famous hero of epic song in the 
seventeenth century is the bandit-chief of the Volga, 
Stenka Razin, whose memory still lingers among the 
peasants of those regions. He was regarded as the cham- 
pion of the people against the oppression of the nobles, 
and 'Tlya of Murom, the Old Kazak" is represented as 

34 Russian Literature 

the captain of the brigands under him. To Stenka, also, 
are attributed magic powers. From the same period date 
also the two most popular dance-songs of the present 
day — the "Kamarynskaya" and "Barynya Sudarynya, " 
its sequel. The Kamarynskaya was the district which then 
constituted the Ukraina, or border-marches, situated 
about where the government of Orel now is. The two 
songs present a valuable historical picture of the coarse 
manners of the period on that lawless frontier; hence, 
only a few of the lines which still subsist of these poetical 
chronicles can be used to the irresistibly dashing music. 

The power of composing epic songs has been supposed 
to have gradually died out, almost ceasing with the reign 
of Peter the Great, wholly ceasing with the war of 1 8 12. 
But very recently an interesting experiment has been 
begun, based on the discovery of several new songs about 
the Emperor Alexander II., which are sung by the peas- 
ants over a wide range of country All these songs are 
being written down with the greatest accuracy as to the 
peculiarities of pronunciation and accentuation. If, in 
the future, variants make their appearance, containing an 
increasing infusion of the artistic and poetical elements, 
considerable light will be thrown upon the problem of the 
rise and growth of the ancient epic songs, and on the 
question of poetical inspiration among the peasants of 
the present epoch. One of these ballads, written down 
in the Province of the Don, from the lips of a blind beg- 
gar, says that Alexander II., "burned with love, wished 
to give freedom to all, kept all under his wing, and freed 
them from punishment. He reformed all the laws, heard 
the groans of the needy, and himself hastened to their aid." 
"So the wicked killed him," says the ballad, and pro- 

The Ancient Period 35 

ceeds to describe the occurrence, including the way in 
which "the black flag" was lowered on the palace, and 
"they sent a telegram about the eclipse of our sun." In the 
far northern government of Kostroma, on the Volga, two 
more ballads on the same subject have been taken down on 
the typewriter, so that the bard could readily correct them. 
The first, entitled "A Lay of Mourning for the Death of 
the Tzar Liberator," narrates how "a dreadful cloud of 
black, bloodthirsty ravens assembled, and invited to them 
the underground, subterranean rats, not to a feast-ball, 
not to a christening, but to undermine the roots of the 
olive-branch." Naturally this style demands that the 
emperor be designated as "the bright falcon, light winged, 
swift eyed." It describes the plot, and how the bombs 
were to be wrapped up in white cloths, and the conspira- 
tors were "to go for a stroll, as with watermelons." 
When the bombs burst, "the panes in the neighboring 
houses are shattered," and "the dark blue feathers" of 
the "bright falcon" are set on fire. "As there were no 
Kostroma peasants on hand to aid the emperor — no 
Komisaroffs or Susanins, " adds the ballad, with local 
pride (alluding to the legend of Ivan Susanin saving the 
first Romanoff Tzar from the Poles in 16 12, which forms 
the subject of the famous opera by Glinka, "Life for the 
Tzar"), "he laid himself down in the bosom of his mother 
(earth)." The second ballad is "The Monument-Not 
Made-with-Hands to the Tzar Liberator" — the compound 
adjective here referring to that in the title of a favorite 
ikona, or Holy Picture, which corresponds to the one 
known in western Europe as the imprint of the Saviour's 
face on St. Veronica's kerchief. There are four stanzas, 
of six lines each, of which the third runs as follows: 

36 Russian Literature 

He is our Liberator and our father! 

And we will erect a monument of hearts 

Whose cross, by its gleaming 'mid the clouds, 

Shall transmit the memory to young children and the babes in 

And this shall be unto ages of ages 
So long as the world and man shall exist! 

In southwestern Russia, where the ancient epic songs 
of the Elder Heroes and the Kieff Cycle originated, the 
memory of them has died out, owing to the devastation of 
southern Russia by the Tatars in the thirteenth and 
fourteenth centuries, and the decay of its civilization 
under Lithuanian sway in the fourteenth and fifteenth 
centuries. In the sixteenth century the population of 
southern Russia reorganized itself in the forms of kazak 
communes, and fabricated for itself a fresh cycle of epic 
legends, which replaced those of Kieff; and there the 
kobzdrs (professional minstrels who accompany their 
songs on the kdbza, a mandolin-like, twelve-stringed instru- 
ment) celebrate the deeds of a new race of kazak heroes. 
But in the lonely wildernesses of the northeast, whither the 
Tatar invasion drove the descendants of those who com- 
posed and sang the great epic songs, no more recent 
upheavals have brought forward heroes to replace the his- 
toric paladins, who there hold undisputed sway to the 
present time. 

Of the songs still sung by the people, the following 
favorite (in the version from the Olonetz government) 
may serve as a sample. It is not rhymed in the original. 

Akh! Little guelder-rose, with pinkish azure bloom, 
And merry little company, where my dear one doth drink; 
My darling will not drink, until for me he sends. 
When I, a maiden, very young did dally, 

The Ancient Period 37 

Tending the ducks, the geese, the swans, 

When I, a young maid, very young, along the stream-bank 

I trampled down all sickly leaves and grass, 
I plucked the tiny azure flowerets, 
At the swift little rivulet I gazed; 
Small was the hamlet there, four cots in all, 
In every cot four windows small. 
In every little window, a dear young crony sits. 
Eh, cronies dear, you darlings, friends of mine, 
Be ye my cronies, one another love, love me, 
When into the garden green ye go, then take me, too; 
When each a wreath ye twine, twine one for me; 
When in the Danube's stream ye fling them, drop mine, too; 
The garlands all upon the surface float, mine only hath sunk 

All your dear lover-friends have homeward come, mine only 

cometh not. 


1. How was Christianity introduced into Russia? 

2. In what two important centers was it finally established? 

3. How was the Greek Church able to supply these con- 
verts with a Slavonian translation of the Bible? 

4. Who were Kyrill and Methody? Describe their work. 

5. Why was " Ancient Bulgarian " not the original language 
of the Bulgarians? 

6. In what language was Russian literature written up to 
the time of Peter the Great? 

7. Where, according to tradition, did the early Slavonians 
settle in Europe? 

8. How are the forces of nature represented in the ancient 
marriage songs? 

9. What custom is illustrated in " The Sowing of the 

10. What connection is there between the funeral wails of 
modern and of ancient Russia? 

38 Russian Literature 

11. What was the festival of Kolydda? 

12. What Christian character has been given to the ancient 
" Glory Song"? 

13. Why is pork commonly used at the Russian New-Year? 

14. What different dates have been observed for the open- 
ing of the New-Year? 

15. What remarkable fact is true of the preservation of the 
Russian epic songs? 

16. How were the religious ballads brought before the 

17. Describe some of the characteristics of these ballads. 

18. Into what three groups do the epic songs naturally 

19. What is the Lay of Sadko? 

20. What are the favorite subjects of the songs of the 
" Imperial Cycle "? 

21. What interesting discovery of modern epic songs has 
recently been made? 

22. Why have the songs of the Kieff Cycle died out in their 
own country? 


The Epic Songs of Russia. Isabel F. Hapgood. 

Myths and Folk-Tales of Russians, Western Slavs, and 
Magyars. Jeremiah Curtin. 

Cossack Fairy-Tales. R. Nisbet Bain. 

Sixty Folk- Tales from Exclusively Slavonic Sources. A. 
H. Wratislaw. 

Russian Fairy-Tales. R. Nisbet Bain. 

Fairy-Tales of the Slav Peasants and Herdsi7ien. From 
the French of Alexander Chodsko. 

Songs of the Russian People and Russian Folk- Tales. W. 
R. S. Ralston. 

Slavonic Fairy -Tales. M. Gastner. 

Slavonic Literature and its Relations to the Folk-Lore of 
Europe. M. Gastner. 

Russian P"o Ik- Songs as Sung by the People. Mme. Eugenie 


MINION, 988-1224. 

As soon as Prince Saint Vladimir introduced Chris- 
tianity into Russia, he and his sons began to busy them- 
selves with the problem of general education. Priests came 
from Greece and Bulgaria to spread the Gospel in Russia; 
but they thought only of disseminating Christianity, and 
were, moreover, not sufficiently numerous to grapple with 
educational problems. Accordingly, Vladimir founded 
schools in Kieff, and ordered that the children of the best 
citizens should be taken from their unwilling parents, and 
handed over to these schools for instruction. His son, 
Yaroslaff I. ("the wise"), pursued the same policy, in 
Kieff and elsewhere — the schools being attached to the 
churches, and having for their chief object the preparation 
of ecclesiastics. The natural result was, that in ancient 
Russia, most people who could read and write were eccle- 
siastics or monks, and religious literature was that most 
highly prized. Even so-called worldly literature was 
strongly tinctured with religion. The first Russian liter- 
ary compositions took the form of exhortations, sermons, 
and messages addressed by the clergy to their flocks, and 
the first Russian authors were Ilarion, metropolitan of 
Kieff (beginning in 105 1), and Luka Zhidyata, appointed 
bishop of Novgorod in 1 03 6. The latter 's "Exhortation 


40 Russian Literature 

to the Brethren" has come down to us, and is noteworthy 
for the simplicity of its language, and its conciseness of 
form. From Ilarion we have, "a Word Concerning the 
Law" (meaning, the Law of God), which deals with the 
opposing character of Judaism and Christianity. It proves 
not only that he was a cultivated man, capable of express- 
ing himself clearly on complicated matters, but also that 
his hearers were capable of comprehending him. Other 
good writers of that period were: Feodosiy, elected in 
1062, abbott of the Monastery of the Catacombs in Kieff 
(which was fated to become one of the most important 
nurseries of enlightenment and literature in Russia); 
Nestor, who left a remarkable "Life of Feodosiy"; 
Nikifor, a Greek by birth, educated in Byzantium, who 
was metropolitan of Kieff , 1104-1121; and Kyrill, bishop 
of Novgorod, 1171-1182. 

Thus, it will be seen, events took their ordinary course 
in Russia as in other countries: learning was, for a long 
time, confined almost exclusively to the monasteries, which 
were the pioneers in education and culture elements, such 
as they were. Naturally the bulk of the literature for a 
long time consisted of commentaries on the Holy Scrip- 
tures, translations from the works of the fathers of the 
church (Eastern Catholic), homilies, pastoral letters, and 
the like. But in the monasteries, also, originated the 
invaluable Chronicles; for not only did men speedily begin 
to describe in writing those phenomena of life which im- 
pressed them as worthy of note, but ecclesiastics were in 
a position to learn all details of importance from authori- 
tative sources, and were even, not infrequently, employed 
as diplomatic agents, or acted as secretaries to the ruling 
princes. The earliest and most celebrated among these 

The Ancient Period 41 

ancient Russian historical works is the Chronicle of Nestor, 
a monk of the Catacombs Monastery in Kieff (born about 
1056), the reputed author of the document which bears 
his name. Modern scientists have proved that he did not 
write this Chronicle, the earliest copy of which dates from 
the fourteenth century, but its standing as a priceless 
monument of the twelfth century has never been impunged, 
since it is evident that the author gathered his information 
from contemporary eye-witnesses. The Chronicle begins 
by describing how Shem, Ham, and Japhet shared the 
earth between "them after the flood, and gives a detailed 
list of the countries and peoples of the ancient world. It 
then states that, after the building of the Tower of Babel, 
God dispersed all the peoples into seventy-two tribes (or 
languages), the northern and western lands falling to the 
tribe of Japhet. Nestor derives the Slavonians from 
Japhet — describes their life, first on the banks of the 
Danube, then their colonization to the northeast as far as 
the River Ilmen (the ancient Novgorod), the Oka, in cen- 
tral Russia, and the tributaries of the Dniepr, delineating 
the manners and customs of the different Slavonic tribes, 
and bringing the narrative down to the year 11 10, in the 
form of brief, complete stories. The style of the Chronicle 
is simple and direct. For example, he relates how, in the 
year 945, the Drevlyans (or forest-folk) slew Igor, prince 
of Kieff, and his band of warriors, who were not numer- 

Then said the Drevlyans, " Here we have slain the Russian 
Prince; let us now take his wife, Olga, for our Prince Malo; 
and we will take also Svyatoslaff (his son), and will deal with 
him as we see fit"; and the Drevylans dispatched their best 
men, twenty in number, in a boat, to Olga, and they landed 

42 Russian Literature 

their boat near Boritcheff, and Olga was told that the Drev- 
lyans had arrived, and Olga summoned them to her. "Good 
guests are come, I hear"; and the Drevlyans said: "We are 
come, Princess." And Olga said to them, "Tell me, why are ye 
come hither? " Said the Drevlyans: "The land of the Drev- 
lyans hath sent us," saying thus: 'We have slain thy husband, 
for thy husband was like unto a wolf, he was ever preying and 
robbing; but our own princes are good. Our Drevlyan land doth 
flourish under their sway; wherefore, marry thou our Prince, 
Malo' " for the Drevlyan Prince was named Malo. Olga said 
to them: " Your speech pleaseth me, for my husband cannot be 
raised from the dead; but I desire to show you honor, to-mor- 
row, before my people; wherefore, to-day, go ye to your boat, 
and lie down in the boat, exalting yourselves; and to-morrow I 
will send for you, and ye must say: ' we will not ride on horses, 
we will not walk afoot, but do ye carry us in our boat.' " Thus 
did she dismiss them to the boat. Then Olga commanded a 
great and deep pit to be digged in the courtyard of the palace, 
outside the town. And the next morning, as Olga sat in her 
palace, she sent for the guests, and Olga's people came to them, 
saying: "Olga biddeth you to a great honor." But they said: 
"We will not ride on horses, nor on oxen, neither will we walk 
afoot, but do thou carry us in our boat." And the Kievlyans 
said: "We must, perforce, carry you; our prince is slain, and 
our princess desireth to wed your prince," and they bore them 
in the boat, and those men sat there and were filled with pride; 
and they carried them to the courtyard, to Olga, and flung them 
into the pit, together with their boat. And Olga, bending over 
the pit, said unto them: " Is the honor to your taste? " and they 
made answer: " It is worse than Igor's death; and she com- 
manded that they be buried alive, and they were so buried." 

The narrative goes on to state that Olga sent word to 
the Drevlyans, that if they were in earnest, their distin- 
guished men must be sent to woo her for their prince; 
otherwise, the Kievlyans would not let her go. Accord- 
ingly, they assembled their best men, the rulers, and sent 

The Ancient Period 43 

them for her. Olga had the bath heated and ordered 
them to bathe before presenting themselves to her, and 
when they began to wash, Olga had the bath-house set on 
fire, and burned them up. Then Olga sent again to the 
Drevlyans, demanding that they collect a vast amount of 
hydromel in the town where her husband had been slain, 
that she might celebrate the ancient funeral feast, and 
weep over his grave. So they got the honey together, 
and brewed the hydromel (or mead), and Olga, taking 
with her a small body-guard, in light marching order, set 
out on the road and came to her husband's grave and wept 
over it; and commanded her people to erect a high mound 
over it; and when that was done, she ordered the funeral 
feast to be celebrated on its summit. Then the Drev- 
lyans sat down to drink, and Olga ordered her serving-boys 
to wait on them. And the Drevlyans asked Olga where 
was the guard of honor which they had sent for her? And 
she told them that it was following with her husband's 
body-guard. But when the Drevlyans were completely 
intoxicated, she ordered her serving-lads to drink in their 
honor, went aside, and commanded her men to slay the 
Drevlyans, which was done, five hundred dying thus. 
Then Olga returned to Kieff, and made ready an army 
against the remaining Drevlyans. Such is one of the 
vivid pictures of ancient manners and customs which the 
chronicle of Nestor furnishes. 

The descendants of Prince-Saint Vladimir were not 
only patrons of education, but collectors of books. One 
of them, in particular, Vladimir Monomachus, is also 
noted as the author of the "Exhortation of Vladimir 
Monomachus" (end of the eleventh century), which he 
wrote for his children, in the style of a pastoral address 

44 Russian Literature 

from an ecclesiastic to his flock — a style which, in Russia, 
as elsewhere, was -the inevitable result of the first efforts 
at non-religious literature, in the eleventh and twelfth cen- 
turies. "Chief est of all," he writes, among other things, 
"forget not the poor, and feed them according to your 
powers; give most of all to the orphans, and be ye your- 
selves the defenders of the widows, permitting not the 
mighty to destroy a human being. Slay ye not either the 
righteous or the guilty yourselves, neither command others 
to slay them. In discourse, whatsoever ye shall say, whether 
good or evil, swear ye not by God, neither cross ye your- 
selves; there is no need of it Reverence the aged 

as your father, the young as brethren. In thy house be 
not slothful, but see to all thyself; put not thy trust in a 
steward, neither in a servant, that thy guests jeer not at 

thy house, nor at thy dinner Love your wives, 

but give them no power over you. Forget not the good 
ye know, and what ye know not, as yet, that learn ye," 
and so forth. 

The beginning of the twelfth century witnessed other 
notable attempts at secular literature. To the twelfth 
century, also, belongs Russia's single written epic song, 
"The Word (or lay) Concerning Igor's Raid," which 
contains an extremely curious mixture of Christianity and 
heathen views. By a fortunate chance, this epic was 
preserved and was discovered, in 1795, by Count Miisin- 
Pushkin, among a collection which he had purchased from 
a monastery. Unhappily, Count Musin-Piishkin's valu- 
able library was burned during the conflagration of Mos- 
cow, in 1 8 12. But the Slovo had been twice published 
previous to that date, and had been examined by many 
learned paleographists, who decided that the chirography 

The Ancient Period 45 

belonged to the end of the fourteenth century or the begin- 
ning of the fifteenth century. 

Igor Svyatoslavitch was the prince of Novgorod-Syev- 
ersk, who in 1185, made a raid against the Polovtzy, or 
Plain-dwellers, and the Word begins thus: 

Shall we not begin our song, oh brothers, 
With the story of the feuds of old; 
Song of the valiant troop of Igor, 
And of him, the son of Svydtoslaff, 
And sing them as men now do sing, 
Striving not in thought after Boyan.* 
Making this ballad, he was wont the Wizard, 
As a squirrel swift to flit about the forest, 
As a gray wolf o'er the clear plain to trot, 
And as an eagle 'neath the clouds to hover; 
When he recalleth ancient feuds of yore, 
Then, from out the flock of swans he sendeth 
In pursuit, ten falcons, swift of wing. 

The whole expedition is described in this poetical style, 
in three hundred and eighty-four unrhymed lines, with a 
curious mingling of heathen beliefs and Christian views. 
God shows Igor the road "to the land of Polovetzk, to 
the Russian land," and on his return from captivity, Igor 
rides to Kieff to salute the Holy Birth-giver of God of 
Pirogoshtch, while the Polovtzi are called "accursed," in 
contrast with the orthodox Russians. But the winds are 
called "the grandchildren of Stribog," and the Russian 
people are alluded to as "the grandsons of Dazhbog," 
both heathen divinities, and other mythical and obscure 
personages are introduced. 

With this epic lay, the first period of Russian literature 

* Evidently an ancient epic bard. 

46 Russian Literature 


1. How did Vladimir and his son provide for the education 
of their people? 

2. What kind of literature naturally grew out of the learn- 
ing of the monasteries? 

3. What was the chronicle of Nestor? What special inter- 
est has it? 

4. Quote some of the precepts from the " Exhortation of 

5. By what good fortune has " Igor's Raid " been preserved ? 

6. What is the character of this Epic Song? 



During the Tatar Dominion, or yoke (1224-1370), 
Kieff lost its supremacy, and also ceased to be, as it had 
been up to this time, the center of education and litera- 
ture. The dispersive influence of the Tatar raids had the 
effect of creating- centers in the northeast, which were, 
eventually, concentrated in Moscow; and in so far it 
proved a blessing in disguise for Russia. The conditions 
of life under the Tatar sway were such, that any one, man 
or woman, who valued a peaceful existence, or existence 
at all, was driven to seek refuge in monasteries. The inev- 
itable consequence was, that a religious, even an aesthetic, 
cast was imparted to what little literature was created. 
One celebrated production, dating from about the middle 
of the fourteenth century, will serve to give an idea of the 
sort of thing on which men then exercised their minds and 
pens. It is the Epistle of Archbishop Vasily of Nov- 
gorod to Feodor, bishop of Tver, entitled, "Concerning 
the Earthly Paradise," wherein the author discusses a 
subject of contention which had arisen among the clergy 
of the latter' s diocese, as to "whether the earthly para- 
dise planted by God for Adam doth still exist upon the 
earth, or whether not the earthly but only an imaginary 
paradise doth still exist." The worthy archbishop, with 


48 Russian Literature 

divers arguments, defends his position, that the earthly 
paradise does still exist in the East, and hell in the West: 
which latter proposition is not surprising when we recall 
the historical circumstances under which it was enounced. 

The monks continued to be the leaders in the edu- 
cational and literary army, and under the stress of circum- 
stances, not only won immense political influence over the 
life of the people, but also developed a new and special 
type of literature — political sermons — which attained to 
particular development in the fourteenth century. 
Another curious phenomenon was presented by the narra- 
tives concerning various prominent personages, which 
contain precious facts and expressions of contemporary 
views. The authors always endeavored, after the time- 
honored fashion of biographers, to exalt and adorn their 
subjects; so that "decorated narratives," a most apt title 
for that sort of literature in general, was the characteristic 
name under which they came to be known. One peculiar- 
ity of all of these, it is worth noting, including that which 
dealt with the decisive battle with the Tatars on the field 
of Kulikovo, on the Don, in 1 3 70, under Dmitry Donskoy 
(Dmitry of the Don), Prince of Moscow, is, that they are 
imitated, in style and language, from the famous "Word 
Concerning Igor's Raid." 

Among the many purely secular tales of the fifteenth 
and sixteenth centuries preserved in manuscript, not one 
has anything in common with Russian national literature. 
All are translations, or reconstructions of material derived 
from widely divergent sources, such as the stories of Alex- 
ander of Macedon, of the Trojan War, and various Ori- 
ental tales. About the middle of the sixteenth century, 
Makary, metropolitan of Moscow, collected, in twelve 

Second Period 49 

huge volumes, the Legends (or Spiritual Tales) of the 
Saints, under the title, of Tchetya Minaya — literally, 
Monthly Reading. It was finished in 1552, and contains 
thirteen hundred Lives of Saints. 


1. What was the effect of the TataY raids upon Kieff ? 

2. What striking illustration have we of the weak religious 
literature of this time? 

3. What were the "decorated narratives"? To what 
famous epic are they similar in style? 

4. What foreign character have the secular tales of this 

5. What famous collection of Legends of the Saints was 
made in the sixteenth century. 



Political events had tended to concentrate absolute 
power in the hands of the Grand Princes of Moscow, 
beginning with Ivan III. But no counterbalancing power 
had arisen in Russian society; there was no independent 
life, no respect for the individual, no public opinion to 
counteract the abuse of power. In the beginning of the 
sixteenth century, Russian society had reached the extreme 
limits of development possible to it under its unfavorable 
conditions. The time for the Russian Renaissance had 
arrived. It is well to remember that at this time in other 
parts of Europe also the spirit of despotism and intoler- 
ance was holding individual liberty in check. This was 
the age of Henry VIII. , of Catherine de Medici, of the 
Inquisition, and of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew. 

In this century of transition, the sixteenth, the man 
who exerted over the spirit of the age more influence than 
any other was Maxim the Greek (1 480-1556), a learned 
scholar, a monk of Mt. Athos, educated chiefly in Italy. 
He was invited to Russia by Grand Prince Vasily Ivano- 
vitch, for the purpose of cataloguing a rich store of Greek 
manuscripts in the library of the Grand Prince. To his 
influence is due one of the most noteworthy books of the 
sixteenth century, the "Stoglava, " or " Hundred Chap- 


Third Period 51 

ters, " a set of regulations adopted by the young Tzar 
Ivan Vasilievitch (afterwards known as Ivan the Terrible) , 
the son of Vasily, and by the most enlightened nobles of 
his time at a council held in 155 1 . Their object was to 
reform the decadent morals of the clergy, and various 
ecclesiastical and social disorders, and in particular, the 
absolute illiteracy arising from the lack of schools. 
Another famous work of the same century is the 
"Domostroy, " or "House-Regulator," attributed to Pope 
(priest) Sylvester, the celebrated confessor and counselor 
of Ivan the Terrible in his youth. In an introduction and 
sixty-three chapters Sylvester sets forth the principles 
which should regulate the life of every layman, the man- 
agement of his household and family, his relations to his 
neighbors, his manners in church, his conduct towards his 
sovereign and the authorities, his duties towards his ser- 
vants and subordinates, and so forth. The most curious 
part of the work deals with the minute details of domestic 
economy — one injunction being, that all men shall live in 
accordance with their means or their salary — and family 
relations, in the course of which the position of woman 
in Russia of the sixteenth century is clearly defined. This 
portion is also of interest as the forerunner of a whole 
series of articles in Russian literature on women, wherein 
the latter are depicted in the most absurd manner, the 
most gloomy colors — articles known as "About Evil 
Women" — and founded on an admiration for Byzantine 
asceticism. In his Household Regulations Sylvester thus 
defines the duties of woman: 

' ' She goeth to church according to opportunity and the 
counsel of her husband. Husbands must instruct their 
wives with care and judicious chastisement. If a wife live 

52 Russian Literature 

not according to the precepts of her husband, her husband 
must reprove her in private, and after that he hath so 
reproved her, he must pardon her, and lay upon her his 
further injunctions; but they must not be wroth one with 

the other And only when wife, son, or daughter 

accept not reproof shall he flog them with a whip, but he 
must not beat them in the presence of people, but in pri- 
vate; and he shall not strike them on the ear, or in the 
face, or under the heart with his fist, nor shall he kick 
them, or thrash them with a cudgel, or with any object of 
iron or wood. But if the fault be great, then, removing 
the offender's shirt, he shall beat him (or her) courte- 
ously with a whip," and so forth. 

We have seen that Ivan IV. (the Terrible) took the 
initiative in reforms. After the conquest of Kazan he 
established many churches in that territory and elsewhere 
in Russia, and purchased an immense quantity of manu- 
script service-books for their use, many of which turned 
out to be utterly useless, on account of the ignorance and 
carelessness of the copyists. This circumstance is said to 
have enforced upon Ivan's attention the advisability of 
establishing printing-presses in Russia; though there is 
reason to believe that Maxim the Greek had, long before, 
suggested the idea to the Tzar. Accordingly, the erection 
of a printing-house was begun in 1543, but it was only in 
April, 1563, that printing could be begun, and in March, 
1564, the first book was completed — The Acts of the 
Apostles. The first book printed in Slavonic, however, is 
the "Oktoikh, " or "Book of the Eight Canonical Tones," 
containing the Hymns for Vespers, Matins, and kindred 
church services, which was printed in Cracow seventy 
years earlier; and thirty years earlier, Venice was produ- 

Third Period $3 

ring printed books in the Slavonic languages, while even in 
Lithuania and White Russia printed books were known 
earlier than in Moscow. After printing a second book, the 
"Book of Hours' ' (the Tchasosloff) — also connected with 
Vespers, Matins, kindred services, and the Liturgy, in 
addition — in 1565, the printers, both Russians, were ac- 
cused of heresy, of spoiling the book, and were compelled 
to flee from Moscow. In 1568 other printers produced in 
Moscow the Psalter, and other books. In 15 80, in Ostrog, 
Government of Volhynia, in a printing-house founded by 
Prince Konstantin Konstantinovitch Ostrozhsky, was 
printed the famous Ostrozhky" Bible, which was as hand- 
some as any product of the contemporary press anywhere 
in Europe. 

Nevertheless, manuscripts continued to circulate side 
by side with printed books, even during the reign of Peter 
the Great. 

During the reign of Ivan the Terrible, secular literature 
and authors from the highest classes of society again 
made their appearance; in fact, they had never wholly 
disappeared during the interval. Ivan the Terrible him- 
self headed the list, and Prince Andrei Mikhailovitch 
Kiirbsky was almost his equal in rank, and more than his 
equal in importance from a literary point of view. Ivan 
the Terrible' s writings show the influence of his epoch, 
his oppressed and agitated childhood, his defective edu- 
cation; and like his character, they are the perfectly 
legitimate expression of all that had taken place in the 
kingdom of Moscow. 

The most striking characteristic of Ivan's writings is 
his malicious, biting irony, concealed beneath an external 
aspect of calmness; and it is most noticeable in his prin- 

54 Russian Literature 

cipal works, his "Correspondence with Prince Kurbsky," 
and his "Epistle to Kozma, Abbot of the Kirillo-Byelozersk 
Monastery." They display him as a very well-read man, 
intimately acquainted with the Scriptures, and the trans- 
lations from the Fathers of the Church, and the Russian 
Chronicles, as well as with general history. Abbot 
Kozma had complained to the Tzar concerning the con- 
duct of certain great nobles who had become inmates of 
his monastery, some voluntarily, others by compulsion, as 
exiles from court, and who were exerting a pernicious 
influence over the monks. Ivan seized the opportunity 
thus presented to him, to pour out all the gall of his irony 
on the monks, who had forsaken the lofty, spiritual tra- 
ditions of the great holy men of Russia. 

Of much greater importance, as illustrating Ivan's lit- 
erary talent, is his "Correspondence with Prince Kurbsky" 
C 1 563—1579), a warrior of birth as good as Ivan's own, a 
former favorite of his, who, in 1563, probably in conse- 
quence of the profound change in Ivan's conduct, which 
had taken place, and weighed so heavily upon the remain- 
der of his reign, fled to Ivan's enemy, the King of Poland. 
The abuses of confidence and power, with the final 
treachery of Priest Sylvester (Ivan's adviser in eccle- 
siastical affairs), and of Adasheff (his adviser in temporal 
matters), had changed the Tzar from a mild, almost 
benevolent, sovereign, into a raging despot. On arriving 
in Poland, Prince Kurbsky promptly wrote to Ivan an- 
nouncing his defection, and plainly stating the reasons 
therefor. When Ivan received this epistle — the first 
in the celebrated and valuable historical correspondence 
which ensued — he thrust his iron-shod staff through the 
foot of the bearer, at the bottom of the Red (or Beauti- 

Third Period 5$ 

ful) Staircase in the Kremlin, and leaning heavily upon 
it, had the letter read to him, the messenger making no 
sign of his suffering the while. Kurbsky asserted the 
rights of the individual, as against the sovereign power, 
and accused Ivan of misusing his power. Ivan, on 
his side, asserted his omnipotent rights, ascribed to his 
own credit all the noteworthy events of his reign, 
accused Kurbsky of treason, and demonstrated to the 
Prince (with abundant Scriptural quotations), that he had 
not only ruined his own soul, but also the souls of his 
ancestors — a truly Oriental point of view. "If thou art 
upright and pious," he writes, "why wert not thou willing 
to suffer at the hands of me, thy refractory sovereign 
lord, and receive from me the crown of life? .... Thou 
hast destroyed thy soul for the sake of thy body .... 
and hast waxed wroth not against a man, but against God. ' ' 

Kurbsky 's letters reveal in him a far more cultivated 
man, with more sense of decency and self control, and 
even elegance of diction, than the Tzar. He even re- 
proaches the latter, in one letter, for his ignorance of the 
proper way to write, and for his lack of culture, and tells 
him he ought to be ashamed of himself, comparing the 
Tzar's literary style with "the ravings of women," and 
accusing him of writing "barbarously." 

In addition to these letters, Kurbsky wrote a remark- 
able history of Ivan the Terrible 's reign, entitled, "A 
History of the Grand Principality of Moscow, Concerning 
the Deeds Which We Have Heard from Trustworthy 
Men, and Have also Beheld with Our Own Eyes." It is 
brought down to the year 1578. This history is important 
as the first work in Russian literature in which a com- 
pletely successful attempt was made to write a fluent his- 

56 Russian Literature 

torical narrative (instead of setting forth facts in the style 
of the Chronicles), and link facts to preceding facts in 
logical sequence, deducing effects from causes. 

To the reign of Ivan the Terrible belong, also, "A 
History of the Kingdom of Kazan," by Priest Ioann 
Glazatly; and the "Memoirs of Alexei Adasheff" — the 
most ancient memoirs in the Russian language. 

In the mean time, during this same sixteenth century, 
a new culture was springing up in southwestern Russia, 
and in western Russia, then under the rule of Poland, and 
under the influence of the Jesuits. Many Russians had 
joined the Roman Church, or the "Union" (1596), by 
which numerous eastern orthodox along the western fron- 
tier acknowledged the supremacy of the Pope of Rome, 
on condition of being allowed to retain their own rites and 
vernacular in the church services. In the end, they 
were gradually deprived of these, almost entirely; and 
curiously enough, the solution of this problem has been 
found, within the last decade, in the United States, where 
the immigrant Uniates are returning by the thousand to 
the Russian Church. In order to counteract the educa- 
tion and the wiles of the Jesuits, philanthropic "Brother- 
hoods" were formed among the orthodox Christians of 
southwest Russia, and these brotherhoods founded schools 
in which instruction was given in the Greek, Slavonic, 
Latin, and Polish languages; and rhetoric, dialectics, 
poetics, theology, and many other branches were taught. 
One of these schools in Kieff was presided over by Peter 
Moghila ( 1 597-1 646), the famous son of the Voevoda of 
Wallachia, who was brilliantly educated on the Continent, 
and at one time had been in the military service of 
Poland. Thus he thoroughly understood the situation 

Third Period 57 

when, later on (1625), he became a monk in the Kieff 
Catacombs Monastery, and eventually the archimandrite 
or abbot, and devoted his wealth and his life to the dis- 
semination of education among his fellow-believers of the 
Orthodox Eastern Catholic Church. The influence of 
this man and of his Academy on Russia was immense. 
The earliest school-books were here composed. Peter 
Moghila's own "Shorter Catechism" is still referred to. 
The Slavonic grammar and lexicon of Lavrenty Zizanie- 
Tustanovsky and Melenty Smotritzky continued in use 
until supplanted by those of Lomonosoff one hundred and 
fifty years later. The most important factor, next to the 
foundation of the famous Academy, was, that towards 
the middle of the seventeenth century learned Kievlyanins, 
like Simeon Polotzky, attained to the highest ecclesiastical 
rank in the country, and imported the new ideas in educa- 
tion, which had been evolved in Kieff, to Moscow, where 
they prepared the first stable foundations for the future 
sweeping reforms of Peter the Great. 

Literature continued to bear an ecclesiastical imprint; 
but there were some works of a different sort. One of 
the compositions which presents a picture of life in the 
seventeenth century — among the higher and governing 
classes only, it is true — is Grigory Kotoshikin's "Con- 
cerning Russia in the Reign of Alexei Mikhailovitch." 
Kotoshikin was well qualified to deal with the subject, 
having been secretary in the foreign office, and attached 
to the service of Voevoda (field marshal), Prince Dolgo- 
ruky, in 1666- 1667. Among other things, he points out 
that the "women of the kingdom of Moscow are illiter- 
ate," and deduces the conclusion that the chief cause of 
all contemporary troubles in the kingdom is excessive 

58 Russian Literature 

ignorance. He declares, "We must learn from foreign- 
ers, and send our children abroad for instruction" — pre- 
cisely Peter the Great's policy, it will be observed. 

Another writer, Yury Krizhanitz, must have exerted a 
very considerable influence upon Peter the Great, as it is 
known that the latter owned his work on "The Kingdom 
of Russia in the Middle of the Seventeenth Century." 
This book contains a discussion as to the proper means 
for changing the condition of affairs then prevailing; as 
to the degree in which foreign influence should be permit- 
ted; and precisely what measures should be adopted to 
combat this or that social abuse or defect. The pro- 
gramme of reforms, which he therein laid down, was, to 
proceed from the highest source, by administrative pro- 
cess, and without regard to the opposition of the masses. 
This programme Peter the Great carried out most effectu- 
ally later on. 

Battle was also waged with the old order of things in 
the spiritual realm by the famous Patriarch Nikon (1605- 
168 1), who, as a peasant lad of twelve, ran away from 
his father's house to a monastery. Although compelled 
by his parents to return home and to marry, he soon went 
back and became a monk in a monastery in the White 
Sea. Eventually he rose not only to the highest eccle- 
siastical post in the kingdom, but became almost more 
powerful than the Tzar himself. He may be classed with 
the great literary forces of the land, in that he caused the 
correction of the Slavonic Church Service-books directly 
from the Greek originals, and eliminated from them innu- 
merable and gross errors, which the carelessness and igno- 
rance of scribes and proof-readers had allowed to creep 
into them. The far-reaching effects of this necessary and 

Third Period 59 

important step, the resulting schism in the church, which 
still endures, Nikon's quarrels with the Tzar Alexei 
Mikhailovitch, Peter the Great's father, are familiar mat- 
ters of history; as is also the fact that the power he won 
and the course he held were the decisive factors in Peter 
the Great's resolve to have no more Patriarchs, and to 
intrust the government of the church to a College, now 
the Most Holy Governing Synod. 

When Nikon passed from power, lesser men took up 
the battle. Chief among these was Archimandrite Simeon 
Polotzky (already mentioned), who lived from 1626-1681, 
and was the first learned man to become tutor to a Tzare- 
vitch. The spirit of the times no longer permitted the 
heir to the throne to be taught merely to read and write 
from the primer, the Psalter, and the "Book of Hours"; 
and Alexei Mikhailovitch appointed Simeon Polotzky 
instructor to the Tzarevitch Feodor. 


1. What unfavorable conditions do we find in Russian 
society at the beginning of the sixteenth century? 

2. Who was Maxim the Greek, and what service did he 
render to his times? 

3. What was the purpose of the "House-Regulator" of 
Pope Sylvester? 

4. How does he define the duties of woman? 

5. What early attempts at printing were made in Russia? 

6. What qualities of Ivdn the Terrible may be seen in his 

7. Describe his correspondence with Prince Kurbsky. 

8. How do Kurbsky's qualities compare with those of the 
Tzar, as shown in this correspondence? 

9. Why is Kurbsky's history of Moscow a remarkable work? 

60 Russian Literature 

io. What great work was done by Moghila and his 

ii. How did his influence prove very far-reaching? 

12. What did other writers of this time say of the need for 
better education in Russia? 

13. Describe the career of the famous Patriarch Nikon. 


History of Russia. Rambaud, Chapter XV., Ivdn the 
Terrible, also Chapters XVI.-XX. 

The Story of Russia. W. R. Morfill. 



Even in far-away, northeastern Russia a break is appar- 
ent in the middle of the sixteenth century; and during the 
reign of Ivan the Terrible, a new sort of historical com- 
position came into vogue — the so-called "Stepennaya 
Kniga," or "Book of Degrees" (or steps), wherein the 
national history was set forth in order, according to the 
Degrees of the Princely Houses in the lines of descent 
from Rurik to Ivan the Terrible in twenty degrees. This 
method found favor, and another degree was added in the 
seventeenth century, bringing the history down to the death 
of the Tzar Alexei Mikhailovitch. During the seven- 
teenth century many attempts were made at collections 
and chronicles, the only one approaching fullness being 
the "Chronicle of Nikon," so-called, probably, because it 
was compiled by order of the Patriarch Nikon. 

During the seventeenth century a fad also sprang up of 
writing everything, even school-books, petitions, and 
calendars in versified form, which was known as virshi, 
and imported from Poland to Moscow by Simeon Polotzky. 
At that time, also, it was the fashion for school-boys to 
act plays as a part of their regular course of study in the 
schools in southwest Russia; and in particular, in Peter 
Moghila's Academy in Kieff. Plays of a religious charac- 


62 Russian Literature 

ter had, naturally, been imported from western Europe, 
through Poland, in the seventeenth century, but as early 
as the beginning of the sixteenth century certain church 
ceremonies in Russia were celebrated in a purely dramatic 
form, suggestive of the mystery plays in western Europe. 
The most curious and famous of these was that which 
represented the casting of the Three Holy Children into 
the Fiery Furnace, and their miraculous rescue from the 
flames by an angel. This was enacted on the Wednesday 
before Christmas, during Matins, in Moscow and other 
towns, the first performance, so far as is known, having 
been in the beginning of the sixteenth century, it being 
mentioned, in the year 1548, in the finance-books of the 
archiepiscopal residence of St. Sophia at Novgorod. 
The "furnace" was a circular structure of wood, on 
architectural lines, gayly painted with the figures of ap- 
propriate holy men; specimens have been preserved, one 
being in the Archeological Museum in St. Petersburg. 

The second famous "Act" (for such was their title) 
was known under the name of "The Riding on the Foal 
of an Ass," and took place (beginning with the end of the 
sixteenth century) in Moscow and other towns, generally 
on Palm Sunday. It represented the triumphal entry of 
Christ into Jerusalem, and in Moscow it was performed 
in accordance with a special ritual by the Patriarch, in the 
presence of the Tzar himself; the Patriarch represented 
Christ, the Tzar led the ass upon which he was mounted. 
In other towns it was acted by the archbishops and the 
Voevodas. The third, and simplest, of these religious 
dramas, the "Act of the Last Judgment," generally took 
place on the Sunday preceding the Carnival. 

In 1672 Tzar Alexei Mikhailovitch ordered Johann 

Fourth Period 63 

Gregory, the Lutheran pastor in Moscow, to arrange 
"comedy acts," and the first pieces acted before the Tzar 
on a private court stage were translations from the Ger- 
man — the "Act of Artaxerxes, ' ' the comedy "Judith," 
and so forth. But under the influence of southwestern 
Russia, as already mentioned, it was not long before a 
Russian mystery play, "St. Alexei, the Man of God," 
founded on a Polish original, thoroughly imbued with 
Polish influence, was written in honor of Tzar Alexei, and 
acted in public by students of Peter Moghila's College in 
Kieff. A whole series of mystery plays followed from 
the fruitful pen of Simeon Polotzky. Especially curious 
was his "Comedy of King Nebuchadnezzar, the Golden 
Calf, and the Three Youths Who Were Not Consumed 
in the Fiery Furnace." He wrote many other "com- 
edies," two huge volumes of them. 

Theatrical representations won instant favor with the 
Tzar and his court, and a theatrical school was promptly 
established in Moscow, even before the famous and very 
necessary Slavonic-Greco-Latin Academy, for "higher 
education," as it was then understood. 

None of the school dramas — several of which Peter 
Moghila himself is said to have written — have come down 
to us; neither are there any specimens now in existence of 
the spiritual dramas and dramatic dialogues from the 
early years of the 'seventeenth century. In addition to 
the dramas of Simeon Polotzky, of the last part of that 
century, we have the dramatic works of another ecclesi- 
astical writer, St. Dmitry of Rostoff (1651-1709), six in 
all, including "The Birth of Christ," "The Penitent 
Sinner," "Esther and Ahashuerus," and so forth. They 
stand half-way between mysteries and religio-allegorical 

64 Russian Literature 

pieces, and begin with a prologue, in which one of the 
actors sketches the general outline of the piece, and 
explains its connection with contemporary affairs ; and end 
with an epilogue, recited by another actor, which is a rein- 
forcement and inculcation of the moral set forth in the 
play. St. Dmitry's plays were first acted in the ^cross- 
chamber," or banquet-hall, of the episcopal residence in 
Rostoff, where he was the Metropolitan, by the pupils of 
the school he had founded. He cleverly introduced scenes 
from real life into the middle of his spiritual dramas. 

Collections of short stories and anecdotes current in 
western Europe also made their way to Russia, via Poland; 
and freed from puritanical, religious, and conventional 
bonds, light satirical treatment of topics began to be met 
with in the seventeenth century, wherein, among other 
things ridiculed, are the law-courts, the interminable length 
of lawsuits, the covetousness and injustice of the judges, 
and so forth. Among such productions are: "The Tale 
of Judge Shemyak" (Herring), "The Description of the 
Judicial Action in the Suit Between the Pike and the 
Perch"; or, applying personal names to the contestants, 
"The Story of Yorsha Yorshoff (Perch, the son of Perch) 
and the Son of Shtchetinnikoff (the Bristly)." A similar 
production is "The Story of Kura (the Cock) and Lisa 
(the Fox)." The first place among such works, for sim- 
plicity of style and truth of description, belongs to "The 
History of the Russian Nobleman, Frol Skovyeeff, and 
Anna, Daughter of Table-Decker Nardin Nashtchokin." 
But many writers of that age could not take a satirical 
view of things, and depicted life as a permanent conflict 
between the powers of evil and good — wherein the Devil 
chiefly got the upper hand — and man's principal occupa- 

Fourth Period 65 

tion therein, the saving of his soul. One of the best com- 
positions of ancient Russian secular literature belongs to 
this gloomy category, "The Tale of Gore-Zlostchastye; 
How Gore-Zlostchastye Brought the Young Man to the 
Monastic State," Gore-Zloshtchastye being, literally, 
"Woe-Misfortune." Woe-Misfortune persecutes the 
youth, who finds no safety from him, save on one road, 
where, alone, he does not besiege him — the road to the 

It will be seen that the spirit of the age was deeply 
influenced by the state of material things. 


1. What kind of historical writing sprang up in north- 
eastern Russia during the time of Ivan the Terrible? 

2. Describe the fashion of acting plays in the schools. 

3. What were the " comedy acts " given before the Tzar? 

4. For what is Dmitry of Rostoff to be remembered? 

5. What kind of anecdotes and short stories came from 
western Europe to Russia in the seventeenth century?; 

6. What picture of Russian life do they bring before us? 


History of Russia. Alfred Rambaud. 
The Story of Russia. W. R. Morfill. 


GREAT (1689-1723). 

The Fifth Period of Russian literature is that which 
comprises the reign of Peter the Great, with its reforms, 
scientific aims, and utter change of views upon nearly all 
conceivable practical and spiritual subjects. With the 
general historical aspects of that reign we cannot deal 
here. The culture which Peter I. introduced into Russia 
was purely utilitarian; and moreover, in precisely that 
degree which would further the attainment of his ends. 
But however imperatively his attention was engaged with 
other matters, he never neglected to maintain and add to 
the institutions of general education and special schools, 
and to order the translation of such works as were adapted 
to the requirements of his people, as he understood those 

His views on the subject of literature were as peculiar 
as those on culture, and were guided by the same sternly 
practical considerations. But it must be said, that under 
him the printing-press first acquired in Russia its proper 
position of importance, and became the instrument for the 
quick, easy, and universal dissemination and exchange of 
thought, instead of serving merely as an indifferent sub- 
stitute for manuscript copies. Not only were books 
printed, but also speeches and official poetry for special 
occasions; and at last the "Russian News" (January, 


Fifth Period 67 

1703), the first Russian newspaper, keenly and carefully 
supervised by Peter the Great himself, made its appear- 

At the end of the seventeenth century, only two typo- 
graphical establishments existed in all Russia: one in the 
Kieff Catacombs Monastery (which does an immense busi- 
ness in religious books, and cheap prints and paper ikdni, 
or holy pictures); the other in Moscow, in the "Printing- 
House." In 171 1 the first typographical establishment 
appeared in St. Petersburg, and in 1720 there were already 
four in the new capital, in addition to new ones in Tcherni- 
goff, Novgorod-Syeversk, and Novgorod; while another 
had been added in Moscow. Yet Peter the Great dis- 
trusted the literary activity of the monks — and with reason, 
since most of them opposed his reforms, while many 
deliberately plotted against him — and in 1 700- 1 70 1 ordered 
that monks in the monasteries should be deprived of pens, 
ink, and paper. 

His official, machine-made literature offers nothing of 
special interest. But one of the curious phenomena of the 
epoch was the peasant writer Ivan Tikhonovitch Pososh- 
koff (born about 1670), a well-to-do, even a rich, man for 
those days, very well read, and imbued with the spirit of 
reform. Out of pure love for his fatherland he began to 
write projects and books in which he endeavored to direct 
the attention of the government to many social defects, 
and to point out means for correcting them. One of the 
most interesting works of Peter the Great's period was 
Pososhkoff's written "Plan of Conduct" for his son (who 
was one of the first young Russians sent abroad, in 1708, 
for education), entitled, "A Father's Testamentary 
Exhortation." His "Book on Poverty and Wealth" is 

68 Russian Literature 

also noteworthy, inasmuch as it affords a complete survey 
of Russia under Peter the Great. 

During this reign, the highly educated and eminently 
practical Little Russians acquired more power than ever. 
The most notable of them all was Feofan Prokopovitch, 
Archbishop of Novgorod (born in Kieff, 1681), who had 
been brilliantly educated in Kieff and Rome, and was the 
most celebrated of Peter the Great's colaborers, the most 
zealous and clever executor of his sovereign's will, who 
attained to the highest secular and ecclesiastical honors, 
and prolonged his influence and his labors into succeeding 
reigns. His sermons were considered so important that 
they were always printed immediately after their delivery, 
and forwarded to the Emperor abroad, or wherever he 
might chance to be. Like others at that period, he 
indulged in dramatic writing, for acting on the school 
stage; and at Peter the Great's request he drew up a set 
of " Ecclesiastical Regulations" for the Ecclesiastical 
College, and was appointed to be the head of the church 
government, though Stepan Yavorsky was made head of 
the Holy Governing Synod when it was established, in 

Peter the Great's ideas were not only opposed but per- 
secuted, after his death (1723), until the accession to the 
throne of his daughter Elizabeth, in 174 1. It was a long 
time before literature was regarded seriously, on its own 
merits; before literary and scientific activity were looked 
upon as separate departments, or any importance was 
attributed to literature. Science usurped the first place, 
and literature was regarded as merely a useful accessory 
thereto. This view was held by all the first writers after 
Peter the Great's time: Kantemir, Tatishtcheff, Tredia- 

Fifth Period 69 

kovsky, and even the gifted Lomonosoff, Russia's first 
secular writers, in the present sense of that word. 

The first of these, in order, Prince Antiokh Dmitrie- 
vitch Kantemir, was born in 1708, and brought to Moscow 
at the age of three by his father, the Hospodar of Molda- 
via (after the disastrous campaign on the Pruth), who 
assumed Russian citizenship. Prince Kantemir published 
his first work, "A Symphony (concordance) of the 
Psalter, ' ' at the age of eighteen, being at that time in the 
military service, and a member of Feofan Prokopovitch's 
circle, and his close friend. His father had left a will 
by which he bequeathed his entire estate and about one 
hundred thousand serfs to that one of his children who 
should prove "the most successful in the sciences"; and 
one of Prince Antiokh' s brothers having married a daughter 
of Prince D. M. Galitzyn, one of the most influential men 
of the day, Peter the Great naturally adjudged him the 
heir to the estate. This embittered Prince Antiokh 
Kantemir, and he revealed his wrath against the Emperor 
and his party in his first two notable satires, which 
appeared about the time the Empress Anna Ioannovna 
ascended the throne (1730). Galitzyn was one of the 
nobles who were ruined by this event, and Prince Kante- 
mir recovered a portion of his rightful possessions. In 
1 73 1 his powerful protection secured him the appointment 
of diplomatic resident in London. Thence he was, later 
on, transferred to Paris, and never returned to Russia. 
Before his departure to London, he wrote five satires, 
several fables and epistles, none of which were printed, 
however, though they won him great reputation in culti- 
vated society, where they circulated in manuscript copies. 
Satire was quite in the spirit of the age, and Kantemir 

70 Russian Literature 

devoted himself to it. He displayed much wit and keen 
observation. In all, he produced nine satires, four being 
written during his sojourn abroad. In Satire Second, 
entitled, "Filaret and Evgeny," or "On the Envy and 
Pride of Cantankerous Nobles," he describes the arro- 
gance of the nobility, and their pretensions to the highest 
posts, without any personal exertion or merit, solely on 
the merits of their ancestors; and here he appears as a 
zealous advocate of Peter the Great's "Table of Ranks," 
intended to put a stop to precisely this state of affairs, by 
making rank depend on personal services to the state. 
The Third and Sixth Satires are curious in that they 
clearly express the author's views on his own literary activ- 
ity, and also on society and literature in general. The 
Sixth Satire, written in 1738, is the most important, as 
showing Kantemir's own nature, both as a man and as a 

One of the men most in sympathy with Peter the Great 
was Vasily Nikititch Tatishtcheff (1 686-1 750), who was 
educated partly in Russia, partly abroad. He applied 
his brilliant talents and profound mind to the public ser- 
vice, first in the Artillery, then in the Department of Mines, 
later on as Governor of Astrakhan. In pursuance of a 
general plan for useful literary labors, Tatishtcheff col- 
lected materials for a geography, which he did not finish, 
and for a history of Russia, which he worked out with 
considerable fullness, in five volumes. It was published 
thirty years after his death, by command of Katherine II. 
It is not history in the sense of that word at the present 
day, but merely a very respectable preliminary study of 
materials; and the author's expressions of opinion are 
valuable features, as setting forth the spirit of the Epoch 

Fifth Period 71 

of Reformation. He is generally mentioned as a historian, 
but far more important are his " Spiritual Testament" 
(Last Will) and "Exhortation to his son Evgraff" (1733), 
and "A Discussion between Two Friends as to the 
Advantages of Sciences and Schools" (probably written 
1731-1736). The Testament consists of a general col- 
lection of rules concerning worldly wisdom, applied to 
contemporary needs and views, though his son was already 
grown up and in the government service, so that much of 
its contents are of general application only, and were 
introduced to round out the work, and for the edification 
of the rising generation. It is the last specimen of a class 
of works in which, as has been seen, Russian literature is 

The first Russian who devoted himself exclusively to 
literature was Vasily Kirillovitch Trediakovsky (born at 
Astrakhan in 1703), the son and grandson of priests, who 
was educated in Russia and abroad. When he decided, on 
his return from abroad in 1730, to adopt literature as a pro- 
fession, the times were extremely unpropitious. He had, 
long before, during his student days in Moscow, written 
syllabic verses, an elegy on the death of Peter the Great, 
and a couple of dramas, which were acted by his fellow- 
students. In 1732 he became the court poet, or laureate 
and panegyrist, and wrote, to the order of the Empress 
Anna Ioannovna, speeches and laudatory addresses, 
which he presented to the grandees, receiving in return 
various gifts in accordance with the custom of the epoch. 
But neither his official post nor his personal dignity pre- 
vented his receiving, also, violent and ignominious treat- 
ment at the hands of the powerful nobles. His "New and 
Brief Method of Composing Russian Verses" constituted 

72 Russian Literature 

an epoch in the history of Russian poetry, since therein 
was first set forth the theory of Russian tonic versification. 
But although he endeavored to create a distinct Russian 
style, and to put his own system into practice, he wrote 
worse than many of his contemporaries, and his poems 
were all below mediocrity; while not a single line of 
them supported the theory he announced. They enjoy as 
little consideration from his literary posterity as he enjoyed 
personally in the society of Anna Ioannovna's day. Yet 
his work was very prominent in the transition period 
between the literature of the seventeenth century and the 
labors of Lomonosoff, and he undoubtedly rendered a 
great service to Russian culture by his tianslations, as an 
authority on literary theories and as a philologist. 

The first writer of capital importance in modern 
Russian literature in general was the gifted peasant- 
academician Mikhail Vasilievitch Lomonosoff (171 1- 
1755) — a combination of the scientific and literary man, 
such as was the fashion of the period in general, and 
almost necessarily so in Russia. Born in a village of the 
Archangel Government, near Kholmogory on the White 
Sea, he was a fisherman, like his father, until the age of 
sixteen, having learned to read and write from a peasant 
neighbor. A tyrannical stepmother forced him to endure 
hunger and cold, and to do his modest studying and read- 
ing in desert spots. Accordingly, when he obtained from 
the village authorities the permission requisite for absent- 
ing himself for the space of ten months, he failed to 
return, and was inscribed among the "fugitives." In the 
Slavo-Greco-Latin Academy at Moscow, which he man- 
aged to enter, and where he remained for five years, he 
distanced all competitors (though he lived, as he said, "in 

Fifth Period 73 

incredible poverty," on three kopeks a day), devoting 
himself chiefly to the natural sciences. At the age of 
twenty-two he was sent abroad by the government to study 
metallurgy at Freiburg. There and elsewhere abroad, in 
England, France, and Holland, he remained for five years, 
studying various practical branches. 

In 1742 he became assistant professor at the Academy 
of Science in St. Petersburg, at a wretched salary, and in 
1748 professor, lecturing on physical geography, chem- 
istry, natural history, poetry, and the Russian language. 
He also was indefatigable in translating scientific works 
from the French and German, in writing a work on min- 
ing, a rhetoric-book, and so forth. By 1757 he had 
written many odes, poetical epistles, idyls, and the like; 
verses on festival occasions and tragedies, to order; a 
Russian grammar; and had collected materials for a his- 
tory, and planned extensive philological researches. Eager 
to benefit his country, and conscious that he was capable 
of doing so, he made practical application of many impor- 
tant improvements in architecture, navigation, mining, and 
manufacturing industries. For example: in 1750 he zeal- 
ously engaged in the manufacture of glass (with the aid of 
the government), set up a glass-factory, and applied his 
chemical knowledge to colored glass for mosaics. The 
great mosaic pictures which glorify Peter the Great, and 
the vast, magnificent ikoni (holy pictures) which adorn 
the Cathedra] of St. Isaac of Dalmatia, in St. Petersburg, 
are the products of those factories, which still exist and 

It is impossible to narrate in detail all Lomonosoff's 
enterprises for the improvement of the economic condition 
of the masses, his government surveys of Russia, ethno- 

74 Russian Literature 

graphical and geographical aims, and the like. His 
administrative labors absorbed most of his time leaving 
little for literary work. Like others of his day, he 
regarded literature as an occupation for a man's leisure 
hours, and even openly ridiculed those who busied them- 
selves exclusively with it; though he ascribed to it great 
subsidiary importance, as a convenient instrument for 
introducing to society new ideas, and for expounding 
divers truths, both abstract and scientific. Thus he 
strove to furnish Russia with models of literary produc- 
tions in all classes, and to improve the language of litera- 
ture and science. Nevertheless, although he rendered 
great services in these directions, and is known as "the 
Father of Russian Literature," he was far more important 
as a scientific than as a literary man. It is true that pre- 
cisely the opposite view of him was held during the period 
immediately succeeding him, and he became an authority 
and a pattern for many Russian writers, who imitated his 
pseudo-classical poetry, and even copied his language, as 
the acme of literary perfection. In reality, although he 
acquired a certain technical skill, he was a very mediocre 
poet; yet he was as an eagle among barnyard fowls, and 
cleverly made use of the remarkable possibilities of the 
Russian language as no other man did, although he bor- 
rowed his models from the pseudo-classical productions 
then in vogue in foreign countries. A few of his versified 
efforts which have come down to us deserve the name of 
poetry, by virtue of their lofty thoughts and strong, sin- 
cere feeling, expressed in graceful, melodious style. 
Among the best of these are: "A Letter Concerning the 
Utility of Glass," "Meditations Concerning the Grandeur 
of God," and his triumphal ode, "On the Day of the 

Fifth Period 75 

Accession to the Throne of the Empress Elizaveta 
Petrovna" — this last being the expression of the general 
rapture at the accession of Peter the Great's daughter. 

The most important feature of all Lomonosoff 's poetical 
productions is the fine, melodious language, which was a 
complete novelty at that time, together with smooth, regu- 
lar versification. Not one of his contemporaries possessed 
so profound and varied a knowledge of the Russian popular 
and book languages, and this knowledge it was which 
enabled him to make such a wide choice between the 
ancient Church Slavonic, ancient Russian, the popular, 
and the bookish tongues. 

In Peter the Great's Epoch of Reform,, the modern 
"secular" or "civil" alphabet was substituted for the 
ancient Church Slavonic, and the modern Russian lan- 
guage, which Lomonosoff did so much to improve, began 
to assume shape, literature and science at last freeing 
themselves completely from ecclesiasticism and monasti- 

The first writer to divorce literature and science, like 
Lomonosoff, a talent of the transition period, between the 
Epoch of Reform and the brilliant era of Katherine II. — 
a product, in education and culture, of the Reform Epoch, 
though he strove to escape from its traditions — was Alex- 
ander Petrovitch Sumarokoff (17 1 7-1 777). Insignificant 
in comparison with Lomonosoff, the most complete con- 
trast with the peasant-genius by his birth and social rank, 
which were of the highest, he was plainly the forerunner 
of a new era; and in the sense in which Feofan Prokopo- 
vitch is called "the first secular Russian writer," Sumaro- 
koff must be described as "the first Russian literary man." 
The Empress Anna Ioannovna had had a troop of 

y6 Russian Literature 

Italian actors, early in her reign; and in 1735 a troop of 
actors and singers. The Empress Elizaveta Petrovna 
revived the theater, and during her reign there were even 
two troops of actors, one French, the other Italian, for 
ballet and opera-bouffe (1757), both subsidized by the 
court. Sometimes an audience was lacking at- their per- 
formances, and on one occasion at least, Elizaveta Petrovna 
improved upon the Scripture parable; when an insuffi- 
cient number of spectators presented themselves at the 
French comedy, she forthwith dispatched mounted mes- 
sengers to numerous persons of rank and distinction, with 
a categorical demand to know why they had absented them- 
selves, and a warning that henceforth a fine of fifty rubles 
would be exacted for such dereliction of duty. 

A distinctive feature of Elizaveta's reign was the 
growth of closer relations with France, which at this 
period represented the highest culture of Europe. Dutch 
and German influences which had hitherto impressed them- 
selves upon Russian society, now gave place to French 
ideas. Translations of the French classics of the brilliant 
age of Louis XIV. were made in Russian, and the new 
Academy of Fine Arts established by Elizaveta in St. 
Petersburg was put under the care of French masters. It 
was in her reign also that the University of Moscow was 

In 1746 Feodor Grigorievitch Volkhoff, the son of a 
merchant, built in Yaroslavl (on the upper Volga), the 
first Russian theater, to hold about one thousand specta- 
tors. Five years later, the news of the fine performances 
of the actors and actresses of Volkhoff's theater reached 
St. Petersburg, and the troop was ordered to appear before 
the court. Four years later still, the existence of the 

Fifth Period 77 

Russian theater was assured, by imperial decree. Sumaro- 
koff was appointed the director, having, evidently, for a 
long time previously had full charge of all dramatic per- 
formances at court; and also, evidently, been expected to 
furnish plays. His first tragedy, "Khoreff," dates from 
1747. In the following year "Hamlet" appeared. Until 
the arrival of the Volkhoff troop, all his plays were acted 
in St. Petersburg only, by the cadets and officers of the 
"Nobles' Cadet Corps," where he himself had been edu- 
cated. Towards the end of Elizaveta Petrovna's reign, 
Sumarokoff acquired great renown, almost equaling that 
of Lomonosoff in his literary services, and the admirers 
of Russian literature of that day were divided into hostile 
camps, which consisted of the friends and advocates of 
these two writers, the Empress Elizabeth being at the 
head of the first, the Empress Katherine II. (then Grand 
Duchess) at the head of the second. 

For about ten years (1 759-1 768), Sumarokoff pub- 
lished a satirical journal, "The Industrious Bee," after 
which he returned to his real field and wrote a tragedy, 
" Vysheslaff, " and the comedies, "A Dowry by Deceit," 
"The Usurer," "The Three Rival Brothers," "The 
Malignant Man," and "Narcissus." In all he wrote 
twenty-six plays, including the tragedies "Sinav and 
Triivor," "Aristona," and "Semira," before the estab- 
lishment of the theater in St. Petersburg, in addition to 
"Horeff" and "Hamlet," "Dmitry the Pretender," and 
1 ' Mstislaff . " " Semira' ' was regarded as his masterpiece, 
and among his comedies "Tressotinius" attracted the most 
attention. All these, however, were merely weak imita- 
tions of the narrow form in which all French and pseudo- 
classical dramas were molded, the unities of time, place, 

78 Russian Literature 

and action exerting an embarrassing restriction on the 
action; and the heroes, although they professed to be 
Russians, with obscure historical names (like Sinav and 
Truvor), or semi-mythical (like Khoreff), or genuinely 
historical (like Dmitry the Pretender), were the stereo- 
typed declaimers of the bombastic, pseudo-classical drama. 
Sumarokoff's dramatic work formed but a small part 
of his writings, which included a great mass of odes, 
eclogues, elegies, ballads, and so forth; and although he 
ranks as a dramatist, he is most important in his series of 
fables, epigrams, and epitaphs, which are permeated with 
biting satire on his own period, though the subjects are 
rather monotonous — the bad arrangement of the courts of 
justice, which permitted bribery and other abuses among 
lawyers, the injurious and oppressive state monopolies, 
attempts at senseless imitations of foreigners in language 
and customs, and ignorance concealed by external polish 
and culture. Coarse and imperfect as are these satires, 
they vividly reproduce the impressions of a contemporary 
gifted with keen observation and the ability to deal dis- 
passionately with current events. As we shall see later 
on, this protest against the existing order of things con- 
tinued, and blossomed forth in the succeeding — the sixth 
— period of literature in productions, which not only form 
the flower of the century, but also really belong to modern 
literature, and hold the public attention at the present day. 
This Sumarokoff's dramatic and other works do not do, 
and their place is rather in the archives of the preparatory 

Fifth Period 79 


1. What was the general character of the reign of Peter 
the Great? 

2. How important did the printing press become in his 

3. Why did Peter the Great deprive the monks of pens, 
ink, and paper? 

4. What interesting works were written by Pososhkoff? 

5. Who was Feofan Prokopovitch? 

6. Give an account of the life and writings of Kantemfr. 

7. What literary influence had Tatishtcheff and Tredia- 

8. Describe the early life of Lomonosoff. 

9. Give an account of his many activities. 

10. How did he regard literature, and what were his best 

11. In what way did he exert a strong literary influence? 

12. What attention did the Court give to theatrical repre- 
sentations at this time? 

13. What new relations with Europe marked the reign of 

14. When and where was Volkhoff's theater established? 

15. What share had Sumarokoff in developing the Russian 

16. How did he protest against the abuses of his times? 


History of Russia. Alfred Rambaud. Vol. II., Chapter VI. 

The Story of Russia. W. R. Morfill. 

Specimens froin the Russian Poets. Two volumes, Sir John 
Bowring, contain many specimens from Lomonosoff to Zhu- 
kovsky inclusive. 




Under the brilliant sway of Katherine II. (1 762-1 796) 
literature and literary men in Russia first began to acquire 
legitimate respect and consideration in the highest circles — 
the educated minority, which ruled tastes and fashions. 
Wealthy patrons of literature had existed even in the 
Empress Elizabeth's day it is true; and a taste for the 
theater had been implanted or engendered, partly by force, 
as we have seen. Western ideas had made much pro- 
gress in a normal way, through the close contact with 
western European nations, brought about by Elizabeth's 
great political genius, which had made St. Petersburg the 
diplomatic center and law-giver; and Katherine 's own 
interest in literature before her accession to the throne had 
also had much to do with raising the standard and the 
respect in which literature and writers were held, and in 
preparing the ground for the new era. During her reign, 
life and literature may be said to have come into close 
contact for the first time. Katherine II. herself may be 
placed at the head of the writers of her day, in virtue not 
only of her rank and her encouragement of literature, at 
home and abroad, but because of her own writings. One 
of her comedies, "O, Ye Times! O, Ye Manners!" is still 
occasionally given on the stage. Her own Memoirs and 
her Correspondence with Voltaire, Diderot, and others, 


Sixth Period 81 

furnish invaluable pictures of contemporary views and 
manners. Her satires, comedies, and journalistic work 
and polemical articles are most important, however, 
because most original. In 1769 she began to publish a 
newspaper called "All Sorts of Things" (or "Varieties"), 
to which she personally contributed satirical articles attack- 
ing abuses — chiefly the lack of culture, and superficiality of 
education. It was extremely popular with the public, and 
imitators started up, which the Empress eventually sup- 
pressed, because of their virulent attacks on her own 
journal. She ceased journalistic work in 1774, and then 
introduced on the stage, in her comedies, the same types 
and aspects of Russian life which she had previously pre- 
sented in her satirical articles. 

Of the fourteen comedies, nine operas, and seven 
proverbs which she wrote, in whole or in part (she had 
the skeletons of some filled out with choruses and verses 
according to her own plans), up to 1790, eleven comedies, 
seven operas, and five proverbs have come down to us. 
The comedies are not particularly artistic, but they are 
important in a history of the national literature, as note- 
worthy efforts to present scenes and persons drawn from 
contemporary life — the first of that sort on the Russian 
stage — the most remarkable being the one already referred 
to, and "The Gambler's Name-day" (1772). The per- 
sonages whom she copied straight from life are vivid; 
those whom she invented as ideals, as foils for contrast, 
are lifeless shadows. Her operas are not important. 
Towards the close of her literary activity she once more 
engaged in journalism, writing a series of satirical sketches, 
"Facts and Fiction" (published in 1783), for a new jour- 
nal, issued on behalf of the Academy of Sciences by the 

82 Russian Literature 

Princess Dashkoff, the director of that academy, and chair- 
man of the Russian Academy, founded in that year on the 
Princess's own plan. 

This Princess Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkoff (born 
Vorontzoff, 1 743-1 8 10) was a brilliantly educated woman, 
with a pronounced taste for political intrigue, who had a 
great share in the conspiracy which disposed of Peter III., 
and placed Katherine II. on the throne. Katherine richly 
rewarded the Princess, but preserved her own independ- 
ence and supremacy, which offended Princess Dashkoff, 
the result being a coldness between the former intimate 
friends . This, in turn, obliged the Princess to leave the 
court and travel at home and abroad. During one trip 
abroad she received a diploma as doctor of laws, medi- 
cine, and theology from Edinburg University. Her 
Memoirs are famous, though not particularly frank, or in 
agreement with Katherine II. 's statements, naturally. 
The Empress never ceased to be suspicious of her, but 
twenty years later a truce was patched up between them, 
and Katherine appointed her to the offices above men- 
tioned — never held before or since by a woman. 

Princess Dashkoff wrote much on educational subjects, 
and in the journal referred to above, she published not 
only her own articles and Katherine II. 's, but also the 
writings of many new and talented men, among them, 
Von Vizin and Derzhavin. This journal, "The Com- 
panion of the Friends of the Russian Language," speedily 
came to an end when the Princess-editor took umbrage at 
the ridicule heaped on some of her projects and speeches 
by the Empress and her courtiers. 

If Katherine II. was the first to introduce real life on 
the Russian stage, Von Vizin was the first to do so in a 

Sixth Period 83 

manner sufficiently artistic to hold the stage, which is the 
case with his "Nedorosl," or "The Hobbledehoy." He 
is the representative of the Russian type, in its best 
aspects, during the reign of Katherine II., and offers a 
striking contrast to the majority of his educated fellow- 
countrymen of the day. They were slavish worshipers of 
French influences. He bore himself scornfully, even 
harshly, towards everything foreign, and always strove to 
counteract each foreign thing by something of native 
Russian origin. 

Denis Ivanovitch Von Vizin (1 744-1 792), as his name 
suggests, was the descendant of an ancient German family, 
of knightly rank. An ancestor had been taken prisoner 
in the reign of Ivan the Terrible, and had ended by settling 
in Russia and assuming Russian citizenship. The family 
became thoroughly Russified when they joined the Rus- 
sian Church. Von Vizin was of a noble and independent 
character, to which he added a keen, fine mind, and a 
caustic tongue. His father, he tells us, in his "A Frank 
Confession of Deeds and Thoughts" (imitated from Rous- 
seau's "Confession"), was also of an independent char- 
acter in general, and in particular — contrary to the custom 
of the epoch — detested extortion and bribery, and never 
accepted gifts. "Sir!" he was accustomed to say to per- 
sons who asked favors of him in his official position, "a 
loaf of sugar affords no reason for condemning your 
opponent; please take it away and bring legal proof of 
your rights." 

Denis Von Vizin received a thorough Russian educa- 
tion at home — which was unusual at that era of over- 
whelming foreign influence; and his inclination for 
literature having manifested itself in his early youth, while 

84 Russian Literature 

still at the University School for Nobles, he made various 
translations from foreign languages before entering the 
Moscow University, at the age of fifteen. During a visit 
which he made to St. Petersburg, while still a student at 
the University, he saw the theater for the first time, and 
soon made acquaintance with F. G. Volkhoff (already 
mentioned), and one of the actors. These things exerted 
a great influence upon him. During a visit of the Court 
to Moscow, in 1755, he was appointed translator to the 
Foreign College (Office), with the inevitable military rank, 
and went to live in the new capital. After divers vicissi- 
tudes of service, he wrote "The Brigadier," which he was 
promptly asked to read before royalty and in society. It 
won for him great reputation with people who were capa- 
ble of appreciating the first play which was genuinely 
Russian in something more than externals. It jeers at 
ignorance coated over with an extremely thin veneer of 
pretentious foreign culture. The types in "The Briga- 
dier" (written about 1747) had long been floating about 
in literature, and as it were, awaiting a skillful pen which 
should present them in full relief to the contemporary 
public. Von Vizin set forth these types on the stage in a 
clearer, more vivid manner than all previous writers who 
had dealt with them, as we have seen, in satires and 
dramas, from Kantemir to Katherine II. The characters, 
as Von Vizin depicted them, were no longer abstract 
monsters, agglomerations of evil qualities, but near rela- 
tions to everybody. Moreover, the drama was gay, play- 
ful — not even the moral was gloomy — with not a single 
depressing line. 

Totally different is "The Hobbledehoy" ("Nedorosl," 
1782), which is even more celebrated, and was written 

Sixth Period 85 

towards the close of a long career in the service, filled 
with varied and trying experiences — part of which arose 
from the difficulties of the author's own noble character 
in contact with a different type of men and from his 
attacks on abuses of all sorts — after a profound study of 
life in the middle and higher classes of Russian court and 
diplomatic circles. The difference between "The Briga- 
dier" and "The Hobbledehoy" is so great that they must 
be read in the order of their production if the full value 
of the impression created by the earlier play is to be appre- 
ciated. "The Hobbledehoy" was wholly unlike anything 
which had been seen hitherto in Russian literature. Had 
the authorities permitted Von Vizin to print his collection 
of satires, he would have stood at the head of that branch 
of literature in that epoch; as it was, this fine comedy 
contains the fullest expression of his dissatisfaction at the 
established order of things in general. The merits of the 
play rest upon its queer characters from life, who are 
startlingly real, and represent the genuine aims and ideas 
of the time. The contrasting set of characters, whom he 
introduced as the exponents of his ideals, tlo not express 
any aims and ideas which then existed, but merely what 
he personally would have liked to see. Katherine II., 
with whose comedies Von Vizin's have much in common, 
always tried to offset her disagreeable real characters by 
honorable, sensible types, also drawn from real life as 
ideals. But Von Vizin's ideal characters are almost hos- 
tile in their bearing towards his characters drawn from 
real life. Altogether, Von Vizin must be regarded as the 
first independent, artistic writer in Russia, and therefore 
epoch-making, just as Feofan Prokopovitch must be rated 
as the first Russian secular writer, and Sumarokoff as the 

86 Russian Literature 

first Russian literary man and publicist in the modern 
meaning of the words. It is worth noting (because of a 
tendency to that sort of thing in later Russian writers 
down to the present day) that towards the end of his life 
a stroke of paralysis, in 1785, and other unfortunate cir- 
cumstances, threw Von Vizin into a gloomy religious state 
of mind, under the influence of which he judged himself 
and his works with extreme severity, and condemned them 
with excessive harshness. 

The general outline of "The Hobbledehoy" is as fol- 
lows: Mrs. Prostakoff (Simpleton), a managing woman, of 
ungovernable temper, has an only child, Mitrofan (the 
Hobbledehoy), aged sixteen. She regards him as a 
mere child, and spoils him accordingly. He is, in fact, 
childish in every way, deserving his sobriquet, and is fol- 
lowed about everywhere by his old nurse, Eremyeevna. 
Mr. Simpleton has very little to say, and that little, chiefly, 
in support of his overbearing wife's assertions, and at her 
explicit demand. She habitually addresses every one, 
except her son, as "beast," and by other similar epithets. 
She has taken into her house, about six months before the 
play opens, Sophia, a fairly wealthy orphan, and a connec- 
tion of hers by marriage, whom she ill-treats to a degree. 
She is on the point of betrothing her to Skotinin (Beastly), 
her brother, who frankly admits that he cares nothing for 
the girl, and not very much for her estate, which adjoins 
his own, but a very great deal for the extremely fine pigs 
which are raised on it — a passion for pigs, which he pre- 
fers to men, constituting his chief interest in life. Mr. 
Beastly, who says that he never goes to law, no matter 
what losses he may suffer, no matter how much his neigh- 
bors injure him, because he simply wrings the deficit out 

Sixth Period 87 

of his peasants, and that ends it, declares that Sophia's 
pigs, for which he expresses a " deadly longing," are so 
huge that " there is not one of them which, stood up on 
its hind legs, would not be a whole head taller than any 
one of us," is eager for the match. While this is under 
discussion (Sophia being entirely ignorant of their inten- 
tions), the young girl enters, and announces that she has 
received good news: her uncle, who has been in Siberia 
for several years in quest of fortune, and is supposed to 
be dead, has written to inform her of his speedy arrival. 
Mrs. Simpleton takes the view that he is dead, ought to 
be dead; and roughly tells Sophia that the latter need not 
try to frighten her into giving her her liberty, and asserts 
that the letter must be from the officer who has been in 
love with her, and whom she wishes to marry. Sophia 
offers her the letter, in proof of innocence, saying, "Read 
it yourself." "Read it myself!" cries Mrs. Simpleton; 
"no, madam, thank God, I was not brought up in that 
way. I may receive letters, but I always order some one 
else to read them," whereupon she orders her husband 
to read it. Her husband gives it up as too difficult, and 
Mr. Beastly, on being asked, replies, "I! I have never 
read anything since I was born, my dear sister! God has 
delivered me from that boredom." Pravdin (Mr. Upright), 
an official charged with inspecting the condition of the 
peasants, also empowered to put under arrest cruel pro- 
prietors, and under guardianship of the state those who 
have been ill-treated, enters and reads the letter to them. 
When Mrs. Simpleton learns from it that Uncle Starodum 
(Oldidea) has a large income, and that Sophia is to inherit 
it, she immediately overwhelms Sophia with flattery and 
affection, and decides to marry her to her precious 

88 Russian Literature 

"child," Mitrofan. This leads to violent quarrels during 
the rest of the play between her and her brother, who 
wants the pigs; and to violence from the latter to Mitrofan, 
who declares that he has long wished to marry, and intends 
to have Sophia. In the mean time a company of soldiers, 
on the march to Moscow, arrives, and is quartered in the 
village, while their commanding officer, Milon, a friend of 
Mr. Upright, makes his appearance at the house, where 
to his surprise, he finds his lady-love, Sophia, who 
promptly explains to him the situation of affairs. 

Mitrofan is still under teachers, consisting of Vralman 
(Liar), a former gunner, who is supposed to be teaching 
him French and all the sciences; Tzyfirkin (Cipherer), a 
retired army-sergeant, who instructs him in arithmetic, 
and Kuteikin, who, as his name implies, is the son of a 
petty ecclesiastic, and teaches him reading and writing, 
talking always in ecclesiastical style, interlarded with old 
Church-Slavonic words and phrases. He is always doing 
"reviews," never advancing to new lessons, and threatens 
to drown himself if he be not allowed to wed Sophia at 
once. There is a most amusing lesson-scene. The 
teacher of arithmetic sets him a problem: three people 
walking along the road find three hundred rubles, which 
they divide equally between them; how much does each 
one get? Mitrofan does the sum on his slate: "Once 
three is three, once nothing is nothing, once nothing is 
nothing." But his mother exclaims, that if he finds such 
a sum, he must not divide it, but keep it all, and that 
arithmetic, which teaches such division, is a fool of a 
science. Another sum is worked out in equally absurd 
style, with equally intelligent comments from the mother. 
Kuteikin then takes his turn, and using a pointer, makes 

Sixth Period 89 

Mitrofan repeat after him a ridiculously appropriate sen- 
tence from the Psalms, in the "Tchasosloff," the "Book 
of Hours," or first reader. Vralman enters, meddles with 
everybody, in a strong foreign accent, and puts an end to 
the lessons, as quite unnecessary for the precious boy; for 
which, and his arrogance (when Mrs. Simpleton and the 
Hobbledehoy have retired), the other teachers attack him 
with slate and book. 

Meanwhile, Uncle Starodum has arrived, and talks in 
long paragraphs and stilted language to Pravdin and 
Sophia, expressing the ideal view of life, conduct, service 
to the state, and so forth. He, as well as Sophia, Pravdin 
Milon, are quite colorless. The Simpletons overwhelm 
Starodum with stupid courtesies, and Mrs. S. gets Pravdin 
to examine Mitrofan, in order to prove to Starodum that 
her darling child is fit to be Sophia's husband. The 
examination is even more brilliant than the lesson. 
Mitrofan says that door, that is to say, the door to that 
room, is an adjective, because it is added, or affixed, to 
its place; but the door of the store-house is a noun, 
because it has been standing off its hinges for six weeks. 
Further examination reveals the fact, that Vralman's 
instruction in history has impressed his pupil with the idea 
that the histories (stories) told by Khavronya, the herd- 
girl, constitute that science. When asked about geog- 
raphy, the Hobbledehoy declares that he does not know 
what is meant, and his mother prompts him with '"Eog- 
raphy, " after asking Pravdin what he said. On inquiring 
further as to its meaning and its use, and on being 
informed that it is a description of the earth, and its first 
use is to aid people in finding their way about, she makes 
the famous speech, frequently quoted, "Akh, good gra- 

90 Russian Literature 

cious! What are the cabmen for, then? That's their busi- 
ness. That's not a science for the nobility. All a noble 
has to do is to say, ' Drive me to such a place!' and you're 
driven whithersoever you wish. Believe me, my good sir, 
everything that Mitrofan does not know is nonsense." 

Uncle Starodiim makes acquaintance with Milon, 
whose good qualities he has learned through an old friend, 
and betroths him to Sophia. Mrs. Simpleton, on learning 
of this, and that Starodum and Sophia are to set out for 
Moscow early the next morning, arranges to have Mitrofan 
abduct Sophia at a still earlier hour, and marry her. 
Sophia escapes; Mrs. Simpleton raves and threatens to 
beat to death her servants who have failed to carry out 
her plan. Pravdin then announces that the government 
has ordered him to take charge of the Simpletons' house 
and villages, because of Mrs. S.'s notorious inhumanity. 
Vralman, whom Starodum recognizes as a former coach- 
man of his, mounts the box, and Starodum, Sophia, and 
Milon set out for Moscow, virtue reigning triumphant, 
and wickedness being properly punished — which, again, 
is an ideal point of view. 

But the man who, taken as a whole, above all others in 
the eighteenth century, has depicted for us governmental, 
social, and private life, is Gavril Romanovitch Derzhavin 
(1743-1816). His memoirs and poetical chronicle furnish 
the most brilliant, vivid, and valuable picture of the reign 
of Katherine II. Moreover, in his own person, Derzhavin 
offers a type of one of the most distinguished Russians of 
the last half of the eighteenth century, in his literary and 
official career. He presented a great contrast to his con- 
temporary and friend, Von Vizin, in that, while the latter 
was a noteworthy example of all the best sides in contem- 

Sixth Period 91 

porary social life, with very few defects, Derzhavin was 
an example of all the defects of contemporary life, and of 
several distinctly personal merits, which sharply differen- 
tiated him from others in the same elevated spheres of 
court and official life. He was the son of a poor noble. 
His opportunities for education were extremely limited, 
and in 1762 he entered the military service as a common 
soldier, in the famous Preobrazhensky (Transfiguration) 
infantry regiment of the Guards. As he had neither 
friends nor relatives in St. Petersburg, he lived in barracks, 
where with difficulty he followed his inclinations, and read 
all the Russian and German books he could obtain, scrib- 
bling verses at intervals. In 1777 he managed to obtain 
a small estate and the rank of bombardier-lieutenant, and 
left the service to become an usher in one department of 
the Senate, where he made many friends and acquaintances 
in high circles. Eventually he became governor of 
Olonetz, then of Tamboff. In 1779 he began "in a new 
style," among other compositions therein being an ode 
"To Felitza," meaning the Empress Katherine II. He 
continued to write verses, but published nothing under his 
own name until his famous ode, "God" and "The Murza's 
Vision," in 1785. We cannot here enter into his official 
career further than to say, that all his troubles arose from 
his own honesty, and from the combined hostile efforts of 
the persons whose dishonest practices he had opposed. 
Towards the end of Katherine' s reign he became a privy 
councilor (a titular rank) and senator; that is to say, a 
member of the Supreme Judicial Court. Under Paul I. 
he was President of the Commerce College (Ministry of 
Commerce), and Imperial Treasurer. Under Alexander I. 
he was made Minister of Justice. 

92 Russian Literature 

"Katherine's Bard," as he was called, like several of 
his predecessors, cherished an idea of fixing a style in 
Russian literature, his special aim being to confine it to 
the classical style, and to oppose the new school of Karam- 
zin. In this he was upheld by I. I. Dmitrieff, who was 
looked upon as his successor. But after Derzhavin heard 
Pushkin read his verses, at the examination in the Tzarskoe 
Selo Lyceum (1815), he frankly admitted that the lad had 
already excelled all living writers of Russia; and he pre- 
dicted that this school-boy would become the new and 
brilliant star. 

Despite the burdens of his official life, Derzhavin wrote 
a great deal; towards the end of his life, much dramatic 
matter; yet he really belongs to the ranks of the lyric 
poets. He deserved all the fame he enjoyed, because he 
was the first poet who was so by inspiration, not merely 
by profession or ambition. Even in his most insignificant 
works of the stereotyped sort, with much sound and very 
little thought and feeling, the hand of a master is visible, 
and talent is perceptible; while many passages are remark- 
able for their poetic figures, melody of versification, and 
beauty and force of expression. No poet previous to 
Pushkin can be compared to him for talent, and for direct, 
independent inspiration. His poetry is chiefly the poetry 
of figures and events, of solemn, loudly trumpeted vic- 
tories and feats, descriptions of banquets, festivals, noisy 
social life, and endless hymns of praise to the age of 
Katherine II. It is not very rich in inward contents or in 
ideas. But he possessed one surpassing merit: he, first 
of all among Russian poets, brought poetry down from its 
lofty, classical flights to the every-day life of his father- 
land at that age, and to nature, and freed Russian poetry 

Sixth Period 93 

from that monotonous, stilted, tiresome, official form 
which had been introduced by Lomonosoff and copied by 
all the latter's followers. Derzhavin's language is power- 
ful, picturesque, and expressive, but still harsh and 
uneven, the ordinary vernacular being mingled with 
Church-Slavonic, and frequently obscuring the meaning; 
also, and owing to his deficient education, he often had 
recourse to inelegant, tasteless forms. If we compare 
him with Lomonosoff and Sumarokoff, it is evident that 
Russian poetry had made a great stride in advance under 
him, both as to external and internal development, in that 
he not only brought it nearer to life, but also perfected its 
forms, to a considerable degree, and applied it to subjects 
to which his predecessors would never have dreamed of 
applying it. His famous ode "God" will best serve to 
illustrate his style: 


O Thou eternal One! whose presence bright 
All space doth occupy, all motion guide; 
Unchanged through time's all-devastating flight; 
Thou only God! There is no God beside! 
Being above all beings! Three in One! 
Whom none can comprehend and none explore; 
Who fill'st existence with thyself alone: 
Embracing all, — supporting, — ruling o'er, — 
Being whom we call GOD — and know no more! 

*I take this translation from Sir John Bowring's " Specimens of the 
Russian Poets," rather than attempt a metrical translation myself. It is 
reasonably close to the original— as close as most metrical translations are 
—and gives the spirit extremely well. Sir John Bowring adds ihe following 
footnote: "This is the poem of which Golovnin says in his narrative, that 
it has been rendered into Japanese, by order of the emperor, and hung up, 
embroidered in gold, in the Temple of Jeddo. I learn from the periodicals 
that an honor somewhat similar has been done in China to the same poem. 
It has been translated into the Chinese and Tartar languages, written on a 

94 Russian Literature 

In its sublime research, philosophy- 
May measure out the ocean deep, may count 
The sands or the sun's rays — but God! for Thee 
There is no weight nor measure: — none can mount 
Up to Thy mysteries; Reason's brightest spark, 
Though kindled by Thy light, in vain would try 
To trace Thy counsels, infinite and dark: 
And thought is lost ere thought can soar so high, 
Even like past moments in eternity. 
Thou from primeval nothingness didst call, 
First chaos, then existence. Lord! on Thee 
Eternity had its foundation; all 
Sprung forth from Thee: — of light, joy, harmony, 
Sole origin: — all life, all beauty Thine. 
Thy word created all, and doth create; 
Thy splendor fills all space with rays divine. 
Thou wert, and art, and shalt be! Glorious! Great! 
Light-giving, life-sustaining Potentate! 

Thy chains the unmeasured universe surround: 

Upheld by Thee, by Thee inspired with breath! 

Thou the beginning with the end has bound, 

And beautifully mingled life and death! 

As sparks mount upwards from the fiery blaze, 

So suns are born, so worlds spring forth from Thee; 

And as the spangles in the sunny rays 

Shine round the silver snow, the pageantry 

Of heaven's bright army glitters in Thy praise. 

A million torches lighted by Thy hand 

Wander unwearied through the blue abyss: 

They own Thy power, accomplish Thy command; 

All gay with life, all eloquent with bliss. 

What shall we call them? Piles of crystal light — ■ 

piece of rich silk, and suspended- in the imperial palace at Pekin." There 
are several editions of Sir John's book, the one here used being the second. 
1821; but the author admits that in the first edition he stretched the poetic 
license further than he had a right to do, in this first verse. The book is 
now rare, but this statement will serve as a warning to those who may 
happen upon the first edition. 

Sixth Period 95 

A glorious company of golden streams — 
Lamps of celestial ether burning bright — 
Suns lighting systems with their joyous beams? 
But Thou to these art as the noon to night. 

Yes, as a drop of water in the sea, 

All this magnificence in Thee is lost: — 

What are ten thousand worlds compared to Thee? 

And what am /then? Heaven's unnumber'd host, 

Though multiplied by myriads, and array'd 

in all the glory of sublimest thought; 

Is but an atom in the balance weighed 

Against Thy greatness; is a cypher brought 

Against infinity! What am I, then? Naught! 

Naught! But the effluence of Thy light divine, 
Pervading worlds, hath reach'd my bosom, too; 
Yes! In my spirit doth Thy spirit shine 
As shines the sunbeam in a drop of dew. 
Naught! But I live, and on hope's pinions fly 
Eager towards Thy presence; for in Thee 
I live, and breathe, and dwell; aspiring high, 
Even to the throne of Thy divinity. 
I am, O God! and surely Thou must be! 

Thou art! directing, guiding all, Thou art! 
Direct my understanding then to Thee: 
Control my spirit, guide my wandering heart: 
Though but an atom midst immensity, 
Still I am something fashioned by Thy hand! 
I hold a middle rank 'twixt heaven and earth, 
On the last verge of mortal being stand, 
Close to the realms where angels have their birth, 
Just on the boundaries of the spirit-land! 

The chain of being is complete in me: 
In me is matter's last gradation lost, 
And the next step is spirit — Deity! 
I can command the lightning, and am dust! 

g6 Russian Literature 

A monarch, and a slave; a worm, a god! 
Whence came I here, and how? so marvelously 
Constructed and conceived? Unknown! This clod 
Lives merely through some higher energy; 
For from itself alone it could not be! 

Creator, yes! Thy wisdom and thy word 
Created me! Thou source of light and good! 
Thou spirit of my spirit, and my Lord! 
Thy light, Thy love, in their bright plenitude 
Fill'd me with an immortal soul, to spring 
O'er the abyss of death, and bade it wear 
The garments of eternal day, and wing 
Its heavenly flight beyond this little sphere, 
Even to its source — to Thee — its author there. 
O thoughts ineffable! O visions blest! 
Though worthless our conceptions all of Thee, 
Yet shall Thy shadowed image fill our breast, 
And waft its homage to Thy Deity. 
God! Thus alone my lowly thoughts can soar; 
Thus seek Thy presence — Being wise and good! 
Midst Thy vast works admire, obey, adore; 
And when the tongue is eloquent no more, 
The soul shall speak in tears of gratitude. 

But the literary activity of Katherine II. 's reign was 
not confined to its two most brilliant representatives — Von 
Vizin and Derzhavin; many less prominent writers, belong- 
ing to different parties and branches of literature, were 
diligently at work. Naturally, there was as yet too little 
independent Russian literature to permit of the existence 
of criticism, or the establishment of a fixed standard of 

Among the worthy writers of the second class in that 
brilliant era, were Kheraskoff, Bogdanovitch, Khemnitzer, 
and Kapnist. 

Sixth Period 97 

Mikhail Matvyeevitch Kheraskoff (1 733-1 801), the 
author of the epic "The Rossiad, " and of other less 
noteworthy works, was known during his lifetime only to 
the very restricted circle of his friends. In his convictions 
and views on literature he belonged to the epoch of Lomo- 
nosoff and Sumarokoff; by birth and education to the 
highest nobility. More faithfully than any other writer of 
his century does Kheraskoff represent the pseudo-classical 
style in Russian epic, lyric, and dramatic poetry, for he 
wrote all sorts of things, including sentimental novels. 
To the classical enthusiasts of his day he seemed the 
"Russian Homer," and his long poems, "The Rossiad" 
(1789) and "Vladimir" (1786), were confidently believed 
to be immortal, being the first tolerable specimens of the 
epic style in Russian literature. In twelve long cantos he 
celebrates the capture of Kazan by Ivan the Terrible in 
"The Rossiad." "Vladimir" (eighteen cantos) cele- 
brates the Christianizing of Russia by Prince-Saint 

Ippolit Feodorovitch Bogdanovitch (1743-1803), who 
was developed under the immediate supervision and patron- 
age of Kheraskoff, belonged, by education and his com- 
prehension of elegance and of poetry, to a later epoch — 
on the borderland between pseudo-classicism and the suc- 
ceeding period, which was ruled by sentimentalism. His 
well-known poem, "Dushenka" ("Dear Little Soul"), 
was the first light epic Russian poem, with simple, intelli- 
gible language, and with a jesting treatment of a gay, play- 
ful subject. This subject Bogdanovitch borrowed from 
La Fontaine's novel, "The Loves of Psyche and Cupid," 
which, in turn, was borrowed from Apuleius. 

The third writer of this group, Ivan Ivanovitch Khem- 

98 Russian Literature 

nitzer (1745-1784), the son of a German physician, was 
unknown during his lifetime; enjoyed no literary fame, 
and cared for none, regarding his capacities and produc- 
tions as unworthy of notice. In 1779, at the instigation 
of his friends, he published a collection of his "Fables and 
Tales." At this time there existed not a single tolerable 
specimen of the fable in Russian; but by the time liter- 
ary criticism did justice to Khemnitzer's work, Karamzin, 
and Dmitrieff had become the favorites of the public, and 
Khemnitzer's productions circulated chiefly among the 
lower classes, for whom his Fables are still published. 
His works certainly aided Dmitrieff and Kryloff in hand- 
ling this new branch of poetical literature in Russia. His 
"The Metaphysician" still remains one of the greatest 
favorites among Russian fables for cultivated readers of 
all classes. 

Briefly told, the contents of "The Metaphysician" are 
as follows : A father, who had heard that children were 
sent beyond sea to be educated, and that those so reared 
were more respected than those brought up at home, 
determined, being wealthy, to send his son thither. The 
son, despite his studies, from being stupid when he went, 
returned more stupid than before, having fallen into the 
clutches of educational quacks, of whom there is no lack. 
Aforetime, he had babbled stupidities simply, but now he 
began to expound such things in learned wise; aforetime, 
only the stupid had failed to understand him, now he was 
beyond the comprehension of the wise. The whole house, 
and town, and world were bored to death with his chatter. 
He was possessed with a mania for searching out the 
cause of everything. With his wits thus woolgathering 
as he walked, he one day suddenly tumbled into a pit. 

Sixth Period 99 

His father, who chanced to be with him, rushed off to 
get a rope, wherewith to drag out "his household wis- 
dom." Meanwhile, his thoughtful child, as he sat in the 
pit, reasoned with himself as to what might be the cause 
of his fall, and came to the conclusion that it was an earth- 
quake; also, that his sudden flight into the pit might 
create an atmospheric pressure, from the earth and the 
pit, which would wipe out the seven planets. The father 
rushed up with a rope. "Here's a rope for you, " says 
he, "catch hold of it. I'll drag you out; look out that 
you don't fall off!" "No, wait; don't pull me out yet; 
tell me first, what sort of a thing is a rope? " 
"Although the father was not learned, he was gifted by 
nature with common sense," winds up the fable. 
Another, called "The Skinflint," runs thus: 

" There was once a Skinflint, who had a vast amount of money. 

And, as he was wont to say, he had grown rich, 

Not by crooked deeds. Not by stealing or ruining men. 

No, he took his oath to that: That God had sent all this 
wealth to his house, 

And that he feared not, in the least, to be convicted of in- 
justice towards his neighbor. 

And to please the Lord for this, His mercy, 

And to incline Him unto favors in time to come — 

Or, possibly, just to soothe his conscience — 

The Skinflint took it into his head to build a house for the 

The house was built, and almost finished. My Skinflint, 
gazing at it, 

Beside himself with joy, cheers up and reasons with himself. 

How great a service he to the poor hath rendered, in order- 
ing a refuge to be built for them! 

Thus was my Skinflint inwardly exulting over his house. 

Then one of his acquaintances chanced along. 

ioo Russian Literature 

The Skinflint said, with rapture, to his friend, 
• I think a great lot of the poor can be housed here! ' 
' Of course, a great many can live here; 

But you cannot get in all whom you've sent wandering 
homeless o'er the earth!' " 

One of Khemnitzer's most intimate friends, and also 
one of the most notable members of Derzhavin's circle 
(being related to the latter through his wife), was Vasily 
Vasilievitch Kapnist (i 757-1 824), whose ancestors had 
been members of an Italian family, the Counts Capnissi. 
He owed his fame chiefly to his ode on "Slavery" (1783); 
to another, "On the Extirpation in Russia of the Vocation 
of Slave by the Empress Katherine II." (1786); and to 
a whole series celebrating the conquests of the Russian 
arms in Turkey and Italy. But far more important are 
his elegies and short lyrics, many of which are really very 
light and graceful; and his translations of "The Monu- 
ment," from Horace, which was quite equal to Derzha- 
vin's, or even Pushkin's. His masterpiece was the. 
comedy "Yabeda" (Calumny), which was written prob- 
ably at the end of Katherine's reign, and was printed 
under Paul I., in 1798. It contains a sharp condemnation 
of the morals in the provincial courts of justice, and of the 
incredible processes of chicanery and bribery through 
which every business matter was forced to pass. The 
types which Kapnist put on the stage, especially the petti- 
fogger Pravoloff, and the types of the presiding judge and 
members of the bench, were very accurately drawn, and 
can hardly fail to have been taken from life. Alarmed by 
the numerous persecutions of literary men which took 
place during the last years of Katherine II. 's reign, Kapnist 
dared not publish his comedy until the accession of the 

Sixth Period 101 

Emperor Paul I., when he dedicated it to the Emperor, 
and set forth in a poetical preface the entire harmlessness 
of his satire. But even this precaution was of no avail. 
The comedy created a tremendous uproar and outcry from 
officialdom in general; the Emperor was petitioned to 
prohibit the piece, and to administer severe punishment 
to the "unpatriotic" author. The Emperor is said to 
have taken the petition in good faith and to have ordered 
that Kapnist be dispatched forthwith to Siberia. But 
after dinner his wrath cooled (the petitioners had even 
declared that the comedy flagrantly jeered at the mon- 
archical power), and he began to doubt the justice of his 
command. He ordered the piece to be played that very 
evening in the Hermitage Theater (in the Winter Palace). 
Only he and the Grand Duke Alexander (afterwards Alex- 
ander I.), were present at the performance. After the 
first act the Emperor, who had applauded incessantly, 
sent the first state courier he could put his hand on to 
bring Kapnist back on the instant. He richly rewarded 
the author on the latter' s return, and showed him favor 
until he died. Another amusing testimony to the lifelike- 
ness of Kapnist' s types is narrated by an eye-witness. "I 
happened," says this witness, "in my early youth, to be 
present at a representation of 'Calumny' in a provincial 
capital; and when Khvataiko (Grabber), sang, 

' Take, there's no great art in that; 
Take whatever you can get; 
What are hands appended to us for 
If not that we may take, take, take? ' 

all the spectators began to applaud, and many of them, 
addressing the official who occupied the post correspond- 

102 Russian Literature 

ing to that of Grabber, shouted his name in unison, and 
cried, 'That's you! That's you!' " 

Towards the end of Katherine II. 's reign, a new 
school, which numbered many young writers, arose. At 
the head of it, by reason of his ability as a journalist, 
literary man, poet, and savant, stood Nikolai Mikhailovitch 
Karamzin (i 766-1 826). Karamzin was descended from 
a Tatar princeling, Karamurza, who accepted Christianity 
in the days of the Tzars of Moscow. He did much to 
disseminate in society a discriminating taste in literature, 
and more accurate views in regard to it. During the first 
half of his sixty years' activity — that under Katherine II. — 
he was a poet and literary man; during the latter and most 
considerable part of his career — under Alexander I. — he 
was a historian. His first work to win him great renown 
was his "Letters of a Russian Traveler," written after a 
trip lasting a year and a half to Germany, Switzerland, 
France, and England, begun in 1789, and published in the 
"Moscow Journal," which he established in 179 1. For 
the next twelve years Karamzin devoted himself exclu- 
sively to journalism and literature. It was his most bril- 
liant literary period, and during it his labors were 
astonishing in quantity and varied in subject, as the taste 
of the majority of readers in that period demanded. 
During this period he was not only a journalist, but also 
a poet, literary man, and critic. His poetical composi- 
tions are rather shallow, and monotonous in form, but 
were highly esteemed by his contemporaries. They are 
interesting at the present day chiefly because of their his- 
torical and biographical details, as a chronicle of history, 
and of the heart of a profoundly sincere man. Their 
themes are, generally, the love of nature, of country life, 

Sixth Period 103 

friendship; together with gentleness, sensibility, melan- 
choly, scorn for rank and wealth, dreams of immortality 
with posterity. His greatest successes with the public 
were secured by "Poor Liza," and "Natalya, the Boyar's 
Daughter," which served as much-admired models for 
sentimentalism to succeeding generations. Sentimentality 
was no novelty in Russia; it had come in with translations 
from English novels, such as Richardson's "Clarissa 
Harlowe, " and the like; and imitations of them in Russia. 
"Sensibility" was held to be the highest quality in human 
nature, and a man's — much more a woman's — worth was 
measured by the amount of "sensibility" he or she pos- 
sessed. This new school paid scant heed to the observa- 
tion and study of real life. An essential tenet in the cult 
consisted of a glorification of the distant past, "the good 
old times," adorned by fancy, as the ideal model for the 
present; the worship of the poor but honest country folk, 
the ideal of equality, freedom, happiness, and nearness to 

Of this style, Karamzin's "Poor Liza" is the most 
perfect and admired specimen. Liza, a poor country 
lass, is "beautiful in body and soul," supremely gifted 
with tenderness and sensibility. Erast, a wealthy noble, 
possessed of exceptional brains and a kind heart, but weak 
and trifling by nature, falls in love with her. He begins 
to dream of the idyllic past, "in which people strolled, 
care-free, through the meadows, bathed in crystal clear 
pools, kissed like turtle-doves, reposed amid roses and 
myrtle, and passed their days in happy idleness." So he 
feels himself summoned to the embrace of nature, and 
determines to abandon the high society, for a while at 
least. He even goes so far as to assure Liza that it is 

104 Russian Literature 

possible for him to marry her, despite the immense differ- 
ence in their social stations; that "an innocent soul, gifted 
with sensibility, is the most important thing of all, and 
Liza will ever be the nearest of all persons to his heart." 
But he betrays her, involuntarily. When she becomes 
convinced of his treachery, she throws herself into a pond 
hard by, beneath the ancient oaks which but a short time 
before had witnessed their joys. 

"Natalya, the Boyar's Daughter," is a glorification of 
a fanciful past, far removed from reality, in which "Rus- 
sians were Russians"; and against this background, 
Karamzin sets a tale, even simpler and more innocent, of 
the love of Natalya and Alexei, with whom Natalya falls 
in love, "in one minute, on beholding him for the first 
time, and without ever having heard a single word about 
him." These stories, and Karamzin's "Letters of a 
Russian Traveler," already referred to, had an astonish- 
ing success; people even learned them by heart, and the 
heroes of them became the favorite ideals of the young; 
while the pool where Liza was represented as having 
drowned herself (near the Simonoff Monastery, in the 
suburbs of Moscow) became the goal for the rambles of 
those who were also "gifted with sensibility." The 
appearance of these tales is said to have greatly increased 
the taste for reading in society, especially among women. 

Although Karamzin did not possess the gift of artistic 
creation, and although the imaginative quality is very 
deficient in his works, his writings pleased people as the 
first successful attempts at light literature. In his assump- 
tion that people should write as they talked, Karamzin 
entirely departed from Lomonosoff's canons as to the 
three styles permissible, and thereby imparted the final 

Sixth Period 105 

impulse to the separation of the Russian literary language 
from the bookish, Church-Slavonic diction. His services 
in the reformation and improvement of the Russian liter- 
ary language were very important, despite the violent 
opposition he encountered from the old conservative 
literary party.* 

When Alexander I. ascended the throne, in 1801, 
Karamzin turned his attention to history. In 1802 he 
founded the "European Messenger" (which is still the 
leading monthly magazine of Russia), and began to pub- 
lish in it historical articles which were, in effect, prepara- 
tory to his extended and famous "History of the Russian 
Empire," published in 1818, fine in style, but not accu- 
rate, in the modern sense of historical work. 

Karamzin's nearest followers, the representatives of 
the sentimental tendency in literature, and of the writers 
who laid the foundations for the new literary language and 
style, were Dmitrieff and Ozeroff. 

Ivan Ivanovitch Dmitrieff (1760-1810), and Vladislaff 
Alexandrovitch Ozeroff (1769-18 16), both enjoyed great 
fame in their day. Dmitrieff, while under the guidance 
of Karamzin, making sentimentalism the ruling feature in 
Russian epic and lyric poetry, perfected both the general 
style of Russian verse, and the material of the light, poeti- 
cal language. Ozeroff, under the same influence and 
tendency, aided in the final banishment from the Russian 
stage of pseudo-classical ideals and dramatic compositions 
constructed according to theoretical rules. Dmitrieff' s 

* Karamzin's youngest daughter, by his second marriage, was alive when 
I was in Russia,— a charming old lady. She gave me her own copy of her 
"favorite book," a volume (in French) by Khomyakoff, very rare and 
difficult to obtain; and in discussing literary matters, wound up thus: 
"They may say what they will about the new men. but no one ever wrote 
such a beautiful style as my dear papa!" I also knew some of Ozeroff's 

106 Russian Literature 

most prominent literary work was a translation of La 
Fontaine's Fables, and some satirical writings. Ozeroff, 
in 1798, put on the stage his first, and not entirely success- 
ful, tragedy, "Yaropolk and Oleg." * His most important 
work, both from the literary and the historical points of 
view — although not so regarded by his contemporaries — 
was his drama "Fingal," founded on Ossian's Songs, and 
is a triumph of northern poetry and of the Russian tongue, 
rich in picturesqueness, daring, and melody. His con- 
temporaries regarded "Dmitry Donskoy" as his master- 
piece, although in reality it is one of the least noteworthy 
of his compositions, and it enjoyed a brilliant success. 

But the most extreme and talented disciples of the 
Karamzin school were Vasily Andreevitch Zhukovsky 
( 1 783-1 852) and Konstantin Nikolaevitch Batiushkoff 
(1786-1855), who offer perfectly clear examples of the 
transition from the sentimental to the new romantic school, 
which began with Pushkin. Everything of Zhukovsky's 
that was original, that is to say, not translated, was an 
imitation, either of the solemn, bombastic productions of 
the preceding poets of the rhetorical school, or of the 
tender, dreamy, melancholy works of the sentimental 
school, until he devoted himself to translations from the 
romantic German and English schools. He was not suc- 
cessful in his attempts to create original Russian work in 
the romantic vein; and his chief services to Russian litera- 
ture (despite the great figure he played in it during his 
day) must be regarded as having consisted in giving 
romanticism a chance to establish itself firmly on Russian 
soil; and in having, by his splendid translations, among 
them Schiller's "Maid of Orleans," Byron's "The Pris- 

* Pronounced Alyog. 

Sixth Period 107 

oner of Chillon," and de la Mott Fouque's "Undine," 
brought Russian literature into close relations with a 
whole mass of literary models, enlarged the sphere of lit- 
erary criticism, and definitively deprived pseudo-classical 
theories and models of all force and influence. 

Zhukdvsky' s own history and career were romantic. 
He was the son of a wealthy landed proprietor named 
Bunin, who already had eleven children; when his peas- 
ants, on setting out for Rumyantzoff's army as sutlers, 
asked their owner, "What shall we bring thee from the 
Turkish land, little father?" Bunin replied, in jest, 
"Bring me a couple of pretty Turkish lasses; you see my 
wife is growing old." The peasants took him at his word, 
and brought two young Turkish girls, who had been cap- 
tured at the seige of Bender. The elder, Salkha, aged 
sixteen, first served as nurse to Bunin's daughters. In 
1783, shortly after seven of his children had died within a 
short time of each other, she bore him a son, who was 
adopted by one of his friends, a member of the petty 
nobility, Bunin's daughter standing as godmother to the 
child, and his wife receiving it into the family, and rearing 
it like a son, in memory of her dead, only son. This baby 
was the future poet Zhukdvsky. When Bunin died, he be- 
queathed money to the child, and his widow and daughters 
gave him the best of educations. Zhukdvsky began to 
print bits of melancholy poetry while he was still at the 
university preparatory school. When he became closely 
acquainted with Karamzin (1803-1804), he came under 
the latter 's influence so strongly that the stamp remained 
upon all the productions of the first half of his career, the 
favorite "Svyetlana" (Amaryllis), written in 181 1, being 
a specimen. In 18 12 Zhukdvsky served in the army, and 

108 Russian Literature 

wrote his poem "The Bard in the Camp of the Russian 
Warriors, ' ' * which brought him more fame than all his 
previous work, being adapted to the spirit of the time, and 
followed it up with other effusions, which made much 
more impression on his contemporaries than they have on 
later readers. But even in his most brilliant period, the 
great defect of Zhukovsky's poetry was a total lack of 
coloring or close connection with the Russian soil, which 
he did not understand, and did not particularly love. His 
poetical "Epistle to Alexander I. after the Capture of 
Paris, in 1824," he sent in manuscript to the Emperor's 
mother, the Empress Marya Feodorovna. The result 
was, that the Empress ordered it printed in luxurious 
style, at government expense, had him presented to her, 
and made him her reader. He was regarded as a great 
poet, became a close friend of the imperial family, tutor 
to the Grand Duchess Alexandra Feodorovna (wife of 
Nikolai Pavlovitch, afterwards the Emperor Nicholas I.), 
and his fortune was assured. His career during the last 
twenty-five years of his life, beginning with 1817, belongs 
to history rather than to literature. In 1853, wealthy, 
loaded with imperial favors, richly pensioned, he went 
abroad, and settled in Baden-Baden, where he married 
(being at the time sixty years of age, while his bride was 
nineteen), and never returned to Russia. During the last 
eleven years of his semi-invalid life, with disordered 
nerves, he approached very close to mysticism. f 

Batiushkoff, as a poet, was the exact opposite of Zhu- 

* A translation of this— which is too long to quote here— may be found in 
Sir John Bowring's "Specimens of the Russian Poets," Vol. II. 

t These imperial favors and pensions were continued to his children. 
His son, an artist, regularly visited Russia as the guest of Alexander III. I 
met him on two occasions and was enabled to judge of his father's charms 
of mind and manner. 

Sixth Period 109 

kovsky, being the first to grasp the real significance of the 
mood of the ancient classical poets, and to appropriate 
not only their views on life and enjoyment, but even their 
plastic and thoroughly artistic mode of expression. 
While Zhukovsky removed poetry from earth and ren- 
dered it ethereal, Batiushkoff fixed it to earth and gave 
it a body, demonstrating all the entrancing charm of 
tangible reality. Yet, in language, point of view, and lit- 
erary affiliations, he belongs, like Zhukovsky, to the 
school of Karamzin. But his versification, his subject- 
matter are entirely independent of all preceding influences. 
In beauty of versification and plastic worth, Batiushkoff 
had no predecessors in Russian literature, and no compet- 
itors in the school of Karamzin. He was of ancient, 
noble family, well educated, and began to publish at the 
age of eighteen. 

We now come, chronologically, to a writer who cannot 
be assigned either to the old sentimental school of Karam- 
zin, or to the new romantic school of which Pushkin was 
the first and greatest exponent in Russian literature; to a 
man who stood apart, in a lofty place, all his own, both 
during his lifetime and in all Russian literary history; 
whose name is known to every Russian who can read and 
write, and whose work enjoys in Russia that popularity 
which the Odyssey did among the ancient Greeks. Ivan 
Andreevitch Kryloff (1 763-1 844) began his literary work 
almost simultaneously with Karamzin, but was not, in the 
slightest degree, influenced by the style which the latter 
introduced into Russian literature; and bore himself in no 
less distant and hostile a manner to the rising romantic 
school of Pushkin. He was the son of an army officer, who 
was afterwards in the civil service, a very competent, intel- 

no Russian Literature 

ligent man, who left his family in dire poverty at his death. 
At the age of fifteen, Kryloff produced his first, and very 
creditable, specimen of his future talent, though obliged, 
by extreme need, to enter government service at the age 
of fourteen, at his father's death. He filled several posi- 
tions in different places at a very meager salary, until the 
death of his mother (1788), when he resigned and deter- 
mined to devote himself exclusively to literature. He 
engaged in journalistic work, became an editor, and soon 
published a paper of his own. But his real sphere was 
that of fabulist. In 1 803 he offered his .first three fables, 
partly translated, partly worked over from La Fontaine, 
and from the moment of their publication, his fame as a 
writer of fables began to grow. But he wrote two come- 
dies and a fairy-opera before, in 1808, he finally devoted 
himself to fables, to which branch of literature he remained 
faithful as long as he lived. By 1811-1812 his fables 
were so popular that he was granted a government pen- 
sion, and became a member of the Empress Marya Feo- 
dorovna's circle of court poets and literary men. From 
1 8 12-1840, or later, Kryloff had an easy post in the 
Imperial Public Library, and in the course of forty years, 
wrote about two hundred fables. He is known to have 
been extremely indolent and untidy; but all his admirers, 
and even his enemies, recognized in him a power which 
not one of his predecessors in the literary sphere had pos- 
sessed — a power which was thoroughly national, bound in 
the closest manner to the Russian soil. His fables bear 
an almost family likeness to the proverbs, aphorisms, 
adages, and tales produced by the wisdom of the masses, 
and are quite in their spirit. All the Russian poets had 
tried their hand at that favorite form of poetic compo- 

Sixth Period 1 1 1 

sition — the fable — -ever since its introduction from western 
Europe, in the eighteenth century; and Kryloff' s success 
called forth innumerable imitators. But up to that time, 
out of all the sorts of poetry existing in Russian literature, 
only the fable, thanks to Kryloff, had become, in full 
measure, the organ of nationality, both in spirit and in 
language; and these two qualities his fables possess in the 
most profound, national meaning of the term. His lan- 
guage is peculiar to himself. He was the first who dared 
to speak to Russian society, enervated by the harmonious, 
regular prose of Karamzin, in the rather rough vernacular 
of the masses, which was, nevertheless, energetic, power- 
ful, and contained no foreign admixture, or any exclusively 
bookish elements. One of the most popular of his fables, 
to which allusion is often made in Russian literature and 
conversation, is "Demyan's Fish-Soup." The manner 
in which the lines are rhymed in the original is indicated 
by corresponding figures. 


" Neighbor, dear, my light! (i) 

Eat, I pray thee." (2) 

"Neighbor, dear, I'm full to the throat, — " No matter." (1) 

Another little plateful; hearken: (2) 

This fish soap, I assure you, is gloriously cooked." (3) 

"Three platefuls have I eaten."— "O, stop that, why keep 

count, (4) 
If only you feel like it, (4) 

Why, eat and health be yours: eat to the bottom! (3) 
What fish-soup! and how rich in fat (3) 
As though with amber covered. (3) 
Enjoy yourself, dear friend! (5) 
Here's tender bream, pluck, a bit of sterlet here! 

1 1 2 Russian Literature 

Just another little spoonful! 

Come, urge him, wife! " 

In this wise did neighbor Demyan neighbor Foka entertain. 

And let him neither breathe nor rest; 

But sweat from Foka long had poured in streams. 

Yet still another plateful doth he take, 

Collects his final strength — and cleans up everything. 

" Now, that's the sort of friend I like! " 

Demyan did shout: " But I can't bear the stuck-up; come, eat 

another plateful, my dear fellow! " 
Thereupon, my poor Foka, 

Much as he loved fish-soup, yet from such a fate, 
In his arms seizing his girdle and his cap — 
Rushed madly, quickly home, 

And since that day, hath never more set foot in Demyan's house. 
Writer, thou art lucky if the real gift thou hast, 
But if thou dost not know enough to hold thy peace in time, 
And dost not spare thy neighbor's ears, 
Then must thou know, that both thy prose and verse, 
To all will prove more loathsome than 'Demyan's fish-soup. 

Another good specimen is called: 


When partners cannot agree, their affair will not work 

And torment, not business, will be the outcome. 
Once on a time, the Swan, the Crab, and the Pike, 
Did undertake to haul a loaded cart, 
And all three hitched themselves thereto; 

They strained their every nerve, but still the cart budged not. 
And yet, the load seemed very light for them; 
But towards the clouds the Swan did soar, 
Backwards the Crab did mirch, 
While the Pike made for the stream. 
Which of them was wrong, which right, 'tis not our place to 

Only, the cart doth stand there still." 

Sixth Period 113 

We have seen that Lomonosoff began the task of ren- 
dering the modern Russian language adaptable to all the 
needs of prose and verse; and that the writers who fol- 
lowed him, notably Karamzin, contributed their share to 
this great undertaking. Pushkin practically completed it 
and molded the hitherto somewhat harsh and awkward 
forms into an exquisite medium for every requirement of 
literature. Alexander Sergyeevitch Pushkin (1799-183 7), 
still holds the undisputed leadership for simplicity, real- 
ism, absolute fidelity to life, and he was the first worthy 
forerunner of the great men whose names are world- 
synonyms at the present day for those qualities. Almost 
every writer who preceded him had been more or less 
devoted to translations and servile copies of foreign litera- 
ture. Against these, and the mock-classicism of the 
French pattern, which then ruled Europe, he waged 
relentless battle. He vitalized Russian literature by estab- 
lishing its foundations firmly on Russian soil; by employ- 
ing her native traditions, life, and sentiment as subjects 
and inspiration, in place of the worn-out conventionalities 
of foreign invention. The result is a product of the 
loftiest truth, as well as of the loftiest art. 

His ancestors were nobles who occupied important 
posts under Peter the Great. His mother was a grand- 
daughter of Hannibal, the negro of whom Pushkin wrote 
under the title of "Peter the Great's Arab." This 
Hannibal was a slave who had been brought from Africa 
to Constantinople, where the Russian ambassador pur- 
chased him, and sent him to Peter the GreaL The latter 
took a great fancy to him, had him baptized, and would 
not allow his brothers to ransom him, but sent him, at the 
age of eighteen, abroad to be educated. On his return, 

ii4 Russian Literature 

Peter kept his favorite always beside him. Under the 
reign of the Empress Anna Ioannovna he was exiled to 
Siberia, in company with other court favorites of former 
reigns; and like them, returned to Russia, and was loaded 
with favors by Peter's daughter, the Empress Elizabeth. 
His son was a distinguished general of Katherine II.' s 
day. Pushkin, the poet, had blue eyes, and very fair 
skin and hair, but the whole cast of his countenance in 
his portraits is negro. His father was a typical society 
man, and in accordance with the fashion of the day, 
Pushkin was educated exclusively by French tutors at 
home, and his first writings (at the age of ten) were in 
French, and imitated from writers of that nation. When 
his father retired from the military service, he settled in 
Moscow, and the boy knew all the literary men of that 
day and town before he was twelve years of age, and 
there can be no doubt that this literary atmosphere had a 
great influence upon him. When, at the age of twelve, 
he was placed in the newly founded Lyceum,* at Tzarskoe 
Selo (sixteen miles from St. Petersburg), whence so many 
famous men were afterwards graduated, he and the other 
pupils amused themselves in their play hours by writing a 
little newspaper, and by other literary pursuits. Here 
the lad was compelled to learn Russian, and the first use 
he made of it was to write caustic epigrams. At the 
school examination in 1815, the aged poet Derzhavin was 
among the visitors; and when he heard the boy read his 
"Memories of Tzarskoe Selo," he at once predicted his 

* This building still exists, with its garden alluded to in the 'Memories." 
But though it still bears its name, it is connected by a glazed gallery with 
the old palace, famous chiefly as Katherine II. 's residence, across the street; 
and it is used for suites of apartments, allotted for summer residence to 
certain courtiers. The exact arrangement of the rooms in Pushkin's day is 
not now known. 

Sixth Period 1 1 5 

coming greatness. As is natural at his age, there was 
not much originality of idea in the poem; but it was 
amazing for its facility and mastery of poetic forms. 
Karamzin and Zhukovsky were not long in adding their 
testimony to the lad's genius, and the latter even acquired 
the habit of submitting his own poems to the young poet's 

Pushkin was an omnivorous reader, but his parents had 
never been pleased with his progress in his studies, or 
regarded him as clever. The praise of competent judges 
now opened their eyes; but he had a good deal to endure 
from his father, later on, in spite of this. At this period, 
Pushkin imitated the most varied poetical forms with 
wonderful delicacy, and yielded to the most diverse poeti- 
cal moods. But even then he was entering on a new path, 
whose influence on later Russian literature was destined to 
be incalculably great. While still a school-boy, he began 
to write his famous fantastic-romantic poem, "Riislan 
and Liudmila" (which Glinka afterwards made the subject 
of a charming opera), and here, for the first time in Rus- 
sian literary history, a thoroughly national theme was 
handled with a freedom and naturalness which dealt the 
death-blow to the prevailing inflated, rhetorical style. 
The subject of the poem was one of the folk-legends, of 
which he had been fond as a child; and when it was pub- 
lished, in 1820, the critics were dumb with amazement. 
The gay, even dissipated, society life which he took up 
on leaving the Lyceum came to a temporary end in conse- 
quence of some biting epigrams which he wrote. The 
Prefect of St. Petersburg called him to account for his 
attacks on prominent people, and transferred him from 
the ministry of foreign affairs to southern Russia — in fact, 

n6 Russian Literature 

to polite exile — giving him a corresponding position in 
another department of the government. 

For four years (i 820-1 824) he lived chiefly in southern 
Russia, including the Crimea and the Caucasus, and wrote, 
"The Prisoner of the Caucasus," "The Fountain of 
Baktchesarai, " "The Gypsies," and a part of his famous 
"Evgeny Onyegin," being, at this period, strongly influ- 
enced by Byron, as the above-mentioned poems and the 
short lyrics of the same period show. Again his life and 
his poetry were changed radically by a caustic but witty 
and amusing epigram on his uncongenial official superior 
in Odessa; and on the latter 's complaint to headquarters — 
the complaint being as neat as the epigram, in its way — 
Pushkin was ordered to reside on one of the paternal 
estates, in the government of Pskoff. Here, under the 
influence of his old nurse, Arina Rodionovna, and her 
folk-tales, he became thoroughly and definitively Russian, 
and entered at last on his real career — poetry which was 
truly national in spirit. His talents were now completely 
matured. His wonderfully developed harmony of versifi- 
cation has never been approached by any later poet, 
except, in places, by Lermontoff. Quite peculiar to him- 
self, at that day — and even much later — are his vivid 
delineations of character, and his simple but startlingly 
lifelike and truthful pictures of e very-day life. If his 
claim to immortality rested on no other foundation than 
these, it would still be incontestable, for all previous 
Russian writers had scorned such commonplaces. 

In 1826 he returned to the capital, having been restored 
to favor, and resumed his gay life, which on the whole, 
had a deleterious influence on his talents. In 1831 he 
married a very beautiful and extravagant woman, after 

Sixth Period 1 1 7 

which he was constantly in financial distress, his own 
social ambitions and lavish expenditure being equally well 
developed with the same tastes in his wife. His inclina- 
tion to write poetry was destroyed. He took to historical 
research, wrote a " History of Pugatcheff's Rebellion, " 
and a celebrated tale, "The Captain's Daughter" (the 
scene of the latter being laid in the same epoch), and 
other stories. In these, almost simultaneously with Gogol, 
he laid the foundations for the vivid, modern school of 
the Russian novel. He was killed in a duel with Baron 
George Hekkeren-Dantes, who had been persecuting his 
wife with unwelcome attentions, in January, 1837. Baron 
Hekkeren-Dantes died only a year or two ago. 

As a school-boy he had instinctively turned into a new 
path, that of national Russian literature. For this national 
service, and because he was the first to realize the poetic 
ideal, his countrymen adored him. To the highest external 
elegance and the most exquisite beauty, he fitly wedded 
inward force and wealth of thought, in the most incom- 
parable manner. His finest effort, "Evgeny Onyegin" 
(1 822-1 829), exhibits the poet in the process of develop- 
ment, from the Byronic stage to the vigorous independence 
of a purely national writer. The hero, Evgeny Onyegin, 
begins as a society young man of the period; that is to 
say, he was inevitably a Byronic character. His father's 
death calls him from the dissipations of the capital to the 
quiet life of a country estate. He regards his neighbors 
as his inferiors, both in culture and social standing, and 
for a long time will have nothing to do with them. At 
last, rather accidentally, he strikes up a friendship with 
Lensky, a congenial spirit, a young poet, who has had the 
advantage of foreign education, the son of one of the 

1 1 8 Russian Literature 

neighbors. Olga Larin, the young daughter of another 
neighbor, has long been betrothed to Lensky, and the 
latter naturally introduces Onyegin to her family. Olga's 
elder sister, Tatyana, promptly falls in love with Onyegin, 
and in a letter, which is always quoted as one of the finest 
passages in Russian literature, and the most perfect 
portrait of the noble Russian woman's soul, she declares 
her love for him. Onyegin politely snubs her, lecturing 
her in a fatherly way, and no one is informed of the 
occurrence, except Tatyana's old nurse, who, though 
stupid, is absolutely devoted to her, and does not betray 
the knowledge which she has, involuntarily, acquired. 
Not long afterwards, Tatyana's name-day festival is cele- 
brated by a dinner, at which Onyegin is present, being 
urged thereto by Lensky. He goes, chiefly, that no 
comment may arise from any abrupt change of his ordi- 
nary friendly manners. The family, ignorant of what has 
happened between him and Tatyana, and innocently 
scheming to bring them together, place him opposite her 
at dinner. Angered by this, he revenges himself on the 
wholly innocent Lensky, by flirting outrageously with 
Olga (the wedding-day is only a fortnight distant), and 
Olga, being as vain and weak as she is pretty, does her 
share. The result is, that Lensky challenges Onyegin to 
a duel, and the seconds insist that it must be fought, 
though Onyegin would gladly apologize. He kills Lensky, 
unintentionally, and immediately departs on his travels. 
Olga speedily consoles herself, and marries a handsome 
officer. Tatyana, a girl of profound feelings, remains 
inconsolable, refuses all offers of marriage, and at last, 
yielding to the entreaties of her anxious relatives, con- 
sents to spend a season in Moscow. As a wall-flower, at 

Sixth Period 1 1 9 

her first ball, she captivates a wealthy prince, of very high 
standing in St. Petersburg, and is persuaded by her 
parents to marry him. When Onyegin returns to the 
capital he finds the little country girl, whose love he had 
scorned, one of the greatest ladies at the court and in 
society; and he falls madly in love with her. Her cold 
indifference galls him, and increases his love. He writes 
three letters, to which she does not reply. Then he 
forces himself into her boudoir and finds her reading one 
of his letters and weeping over it. She then confesses 
that she loves him still, but dismisses him with the assur- 
ance that she will remain true to her noble and loving 
husband. Tatyana is regarded as one of the finest, most 
vividly faithful portraits of the genuine Russian woman in 
all Russian literature; while Olga is considered fully her 
equal, as a type, and in popular sympathy; and the other 
characters are almost equally good in their various lines. 
Besides a host of beautiful lyric poems, Pushkin left 
several dramatic fragments: "The Rusalka" or "Water 
Nymph/' on which Dargomyzhsky founded a beautiful 
opera, "The Stone Guest,"* "The Miserly Knight," 
and chief of all, and like "Evgeny Onyegin," epoch- 
making in its line, the historical dramatic fragment "Boris 
Godunoff." This founded a school in Russian dramatic 
writing. It is impossible to do justice in translation to 
the exquisite lyrics; but the following soliloquy, from 
"Boris Godunoff," will serve to show Pushkin's power in 
blank verse. Boris Godunoff, brother-in-law to the Tzar 

* "The Stone Guest" is founded on the Don Juan legend, like the familiar 
opera "Don Giovanni." Miisorgsky set it to music, in sonorous, Wagnerian 
recitative style (though the style was original with him, not copied from 
Wagner, who came later). It is rarely given in public, but I had the pleasure 
of hearing it rendered by famous artists, accompanied by the composer 
Balakireff, at the house of a noted art and musical critic in St. Petersburg. 

120 Russian Literature 

Feodor Mikhailovitch, has at last reached the goal of his 
ambition, and mounted the throne, at what cost his own 
speech shows: Scene: The Imperial Palace. The Tzar 
enters : 

I've reached the height of power; 

'Tis six years now that I have reigned in peace; 

But there's no happiness within my soul. 

Is it not thus — in youth we thirst and crave 

The joy of love; but once that we have quenched 

Our hungry heart with brief possession, 

We're tired, and cold, and weary on the instant! 

The sorcerers in vain predict long life; 

And promise days of undisturbed power. 

Nor power, nor life, nor aught can cheer my heart; 

My soul forebodeth heaven's wrath and woe. 

I am not happy. I did think to still 

With plenty and with fame my people here; 

To win for aye their love by bounties free. 

But vain are all my cares and empty toils: 

A living power is hated by the herd; 

They love the dead alone, only the dead. 

What fools we are, when popular applause, 

Or the loud shout of masses thrills our heart! 

God sent down famine on this land of ours; 

The people howled, gave up the ghost in torment; 

I threw the granaries open, and my gold 

I showered upon them; sought out work for them. 

Made mad by suffering, they turned and cursed me! 

By conflagrations were their homes destroyed; 

I built for them their dwellings fair and new; 

And they accused me — said I had set the fires! 

That's the Lord's judgment; — seek its love who will! 

Then dreamed I bliss in mine own home to find; 

I thought to make my daughter blest in wedlock: 

Death, like a whirlwind, snatched her betrothed away, 

And rumor craftily insinuates 

That I am author of my own child's widowhood: — 

I, I, unhappy father that I am! 

Sixth Period 121 

Let a man die — I am his secret slayer. 

I hastened on the death of Feodor; 

I gave my sister, the Tzaritza, poison; 

I poisoned her, the lovely nun, — still I! 

Ah, yes, I know it: naught can give us calm, 

Amid the sorrows of this present world; 

Conscience alone, mayhap: 

Thus, when 'tis pure, it triumphs 

O'er bitter malice, o'er dark calumny; 

But if there be in it a single stain, 

One, only one, by accident contracted, 

Why then, all's done; as with foul plague 

The soul consumes, the heart is filled with gall, 

Reproaches beat, like hammers, in the ears, 

The man turns sick, his head whirls dizzily, 

And bloody children float before my eyes.* 

I'd gladly flee — yet whither? Horrible! 

Yea, sad his state, whose conscience is not clean. 


1. How did the reign of Katherine II. mark a distinct 
advance in the development of Russian literature? 

2. Describe the literary activities of Katherine II. 

3. Who was Princess Dashkoff? , 

4. Describe the early life and character of Von Vfzin. 

5. What qualities did he show in his play " The Brigadier"? 

6. How did the characters in his "The Hobbledehoy" 
compare with those in the plays of Katherine II.? 

7. Give an account of this play. 

8. Give the chief events in the life of Derzhavin. 

9. Why is he especially worthy to be remembered? 

10. What are some of the beautiful thoughts in the ode 
" God" ? 

11. How was Kheraskoff regarded in his own day? 

, * The reference is to GodunorP s presumptive share in the murder, at 
Uglitch, of Ivan the Terrible's infant heir, the Tzarevitch Dmitry. 

122 Russian Literature 

12. What was the character of Bogdanovitch's poem, 
" Dushenka "? 

13. What influence had the fables of Khemnitzer? 

14. Give examples of them. 

15. What incidents show the effect of his comedy "Cal- 
umny "? 

16. Give an account of the life of Karamzfn. 

17. Give examples of the character of some of his senti- 
mental tales. 

18. What real services did he render to Russian literature? 

19. What importance had Dmitrieff and Ozeroff? 

20. How did the translations of German and French writers, 
made by Zhukovsky, affect the literary ideals of his time? 

21. Give the chief facts in the life of Kryloff. 

22. Give examples of his fables. 

23. Describe the ancestry and early life of Pushkin. 

24. What is his position in Russian literature? 

25. How were his talents shown in Evgeny Onyegin? 

26. What is the character of the soliloquy from Boris 


The Memoirs of the Empress Katherine II. Written by 

The Princess Ddshkoff. Memoirs written by herself, and 
containing letters of the Empress Katherine II. 

Original Fables. Kryloff. (The translation by Mr. Harri- 
son, London, 1884, is regarded as the best of the twelve trans- 
lations of Kryloff' s works.) 

Specimens from the Russian Poets. 2 volumes. By Sir John 
Bowring. Specimens of poetry from Lomonosoff through 

Prose Tales. Alexander Pushkin. Translated by T. Keane. 

Translations froin Pushkin, in Memory of the Himdredth 
Anniversary of the Poefs Birthday. C. E. Turner. 



Even Karamzin's vast influence on his contemporaries 
cannot be compared with that exercised by Pushkin on 
the literature of the '20's and '30's of the nineteenth 
century; and no Russian writer ever effected so mighty a 
change in literature as Pushkin. Among other things, his 
influence brought to life many powerful and original 
talents, which would not have ventured to enter the liter- 
ary career without Pushkin's friendly support and encour- 
agement. He was remarkably amiable in his relations 
with all contemporary writers (except certain journalists in 
St. Petersburg and Moscow), and treated with especial 
respect three poets of his day, Delvig, Baratynsky, and 
Yazykoff. He even exaggerated their merits, exalting 
the work of the last two above his own, and attributing 
great significance to Delvig's most insignificant poems and 
articles. Hence their names have become so closely con- 
nected with his, that it is almost impossible to mention him 
without mentioning them. 

Baron Anton Antonovitch Delvig (1798-183 1) the 
descendant of a Baltic Provinces noble, was one of Push- 
kin's comrades in the Lyceum, and published his first 
collection of poems in 1829. 

Evgeny Abramovitch Baratynsky (1 800- 1 844) came 
of a noble family of good standing. His poetry was 


124 Russian Literature 

founded on Byronism, like all European poetry of that 
day, and was also partly under the influence of the fan- 
tastic romanticism introduced by Zhukovsky. He never 
developed beyond a point which was reached by Pushkin 
in his eariy days in "The Prisoner of the Caucasus," 
"The Gypsies," "The Fountain of Baktchesarai, " and 
the first chapters of "Evgeny Onyegin." He wrote one 
very fine poem, devoted to Finland. 

Nikolai Mikhailovitch Yazykoff (i 803-1846) was of 
noble birth, and published a number of early poems in 
1819. One of his best and longest, published about 1836, 
was a dramatic tale of "The Fire Bird." Between 1837- 
1842 his "The Lighthouse," "Gastrin," "Sea Bathing," 
"The Ship," "The Sea," and a whole series of elegies, 
are also very good. Yazykoff's poetry is weaker and 
paler in coloring than Delvig's or Baratynsky's, yet richer 
than all of theirs in really incomparable outward form of 
the verse, and in poetical expression of thought; in fact, 
he was "the poet of expression," and rendered great ser- 
vice by his boldness and originality of language, in that it 
taught men to write not as all others wrote, but as it lay 
in their individual power to write; in other words, he 
inculcated individuality in literature. 

The only one of the many poets of Pushkin's epoch in 
Russia who did not repeat and develop, in different keys, 
the themes of their master's poetry, was Alexander 
Sergyeevitch Griboyedoff ( 1 795-1 829). He alone was 
independent, original, and was related to the Pushkin 
period as Kryloff was to the Karamzin period — merely by 
the accident of time, not by the contents of his work. 
Griboyedoff was the first of a series of Russian poets who 
depicted life in absolutely faithful, but gloomy, colors; and 

Seventh Period 125 

it was quite in keeping with this view, that he did not live 
to see in print the comedy in which his well-earned fame 
rested, at the time, and which still keeps it fresh, by per- 
formances on the stage at the present day. 

There was nothing very cheerful or bright about the 
social life of the '20's in the nineteenth century to make 
Russian poets take anything but a gloomy view of matters 
in general. Griboyedoff, as an unprejudiced man, endowed 
with great poetical gifts, and remarkable powers of obser- 
vation, was able to give a faithful and wonderfully com- 
plete picture of high life in Moscow of that day, in his 
famous comedy "Woe from Wit" ("Gore ot Uma"), and 
introduce to the stage types which had never, hitherto, 
appeared in Russian comedy, because no one had looked 
deep enough into Russian hearts, or been capable of 
limning, impartially and with fidelity to nature, the empti- 
ness and vanity of the characters and aims which pre- 
ponderated in Russian society. 

He was well born and very well educated. After serv- 
ing in the army in 1 8 12, like most patriotic young Russians 
of the day, he entered the foreign office, in 18 17. There 
he probably made the acquaintance of Pushkin, but he 
never became intimate with him, as he belonged to a 
different literary circle, which included actors and dramatic 
writers. His first dramatic efforts were not very promis- 
ing, though his first comedy, "The Young Married Pair," 
was acted in St. Petersburg in 18 16. In 18 19 he was 
offered the post of secretary of legation in Persia, which 
he accepted; and this took him away from the gay and 
rather wild society existence which he was leading, with 
bad results in many ways. In Persia, despite his multi- 
farious occupations, and his necessary study of Oriental 

126 Russian Literature 

languages, Griboyedoff found time to plan his famous 
comedy in 1821, and in 1822 he wrote it in Georgia, 
whither he had been transferred. But he remodeled and 
rewrote portions of it, and it was finished only in 1823, 
when he spent a year in Moscow, his native city. When 
it was entirely ready for acting, he went to St. Petersburg, 
but neither his most strenuous efforts, nor his influence in 
high quarters, sufficed to secure the censor's permission 
for its performance on stage, or to get the requisite license 
for printing it. But it circulated in innumerable manu- 
script copies, and every one was in raptures over it. Even 
the glory of Pushkin's "Evgeny Onyegin," which appeared 
at about the same time, did not overshadow Griboyedoff 's 
glory. Strange to say, Pushkin, who had magnified Delvig, 
Baratynsky, and Yazykoff far above their merits, and in 
general, was accustomed to overrate all talent, whether it 
belonged to his own friends or to strangers, was extremely 
severe on Griboyedoff' s comedy, and detected many grave 
defects in it. 

Griboyedoff was greatly irritated by his failure to obtain 
proper public recognition of his comedy. He expressed 
his feelings freely, became more embittered than ever 
against mankind in general, and went back to Georgia, in 
1825, where he added to his previous poems, and took 
part in the campaign against Persia, in which he rendered 
great services to the commander-in-chief. As a reward, 
he was sent to St. Petersburg (1828), to present the 
treaty of peace to the Emperor. He was promptly 
appointed minister plenipotentiary to Persia, and on his 
way thither, in Tiflis, married a Georgian princess. His 
stern course of action and his disregard of certain rooted 
Oriental customs aroused the priesthood and the ignorant 

Seventh Period 127 

masses of Teheran against him, and a riot broke out. 
After a heroic defense of the legation, all the Russians, 
including Griboyedoff, were torn to pieces. His wife had 
been left behind in Tabreez and escaped. She buried his 
remains at a monastery near Tiflis, in accordance with a 
wish which he had previously expressed. 

There is not much plot to "Woe from Wit." Molt- 
chalin, FamiisofPs secretary, a cold, calculating, fickle 
young man, has been making love to FamiisofPs only 
child, an heiress, Sophia, an extremely sentimental young 
person. Famusoff rails against foreign books and fash- 
ions, "destroyers of our pockets and our hearth," and 
lauds Colonel Skalozub, an elderly pretender to Sophia's 
hand, explaining the general servile policy of obtaining 
rank and position by the Russian equivalent of "pull," 
which is called "connections." He compares his with 
Tchatsky, to the disadvantage of the latter, who had been 
brought up with Sophia, and had been in love with her 
before his departure on his travels three years previously, 
though he had never mentioned the fact. Tchatsky gives 
rise to this diatribe by returning from his travels at this 
juncture, asking for Sophia's hand, and trying to woo 
the girl herself with equal unsuccess. Tchatsky 's arraign- 
ment of the imitation of foreign customs then everywhere 
prevalent, does not win favor from any one. Worse yet, 
he expresses his opinion of Moltchalin; and Sophia, in 
revenge, drops a hint that Tchatsky is crazy. The hint 
grows apace, and the cause is surmised to be a bullet- 
wound in the head, received during a recent campaign. 
Another "authority" contradicts this; it comes from 
drinking champagne by the gobletful — no, by the bottle — 
no, by the case. But Famusoff settles the matter by 

128 Russian Literature 

declaring that it comes from knowing too much. This 
takes place at an evening party at the Famusoffs, and 
Tchatsky returns to the room to meet with an amazing 
reception. Eventually, he discovers that he is supposed 
to be mad, and that he is indebted to Sophia for the origin 
of the lie; also, that she is making rendezvous with the 
low-minded, flippant Moltchalin. At last Sophia discov- 
ers that Moltchalin is making love to her maid through 
inclination, and to her only through calculation. She 
casts him off, and orders him out of the house. Tchatsky, 
cured of all illusions about her, renounces his suit for her 
hand, and declares that he will leave Moscow forever. 
Tchatsky, whose woe is due to his persistence in talking 
sense and truth to people who do not care to hear it, and 
to his manly independence all the way through, comes to 
grief through having too much wit; hence the title. 

Not one of Pushkin's successors, talented as many of 
them were, was able to attain to the position of importance 
which the great poet had rendered obligatory for future 
aspirants. It is worth noting that Pushkin's best work, 
in his second, non-Byronic, purely national style, enjoyed 
less success among his contemporaries than his early, half- 
imitative efforts, where the characters were weak, lacking 
in independent creation, and where the whole tone was 
gloomy. This gloomy tone expressed the sentiments of 
all Russia of the period, and it was natural that Byronic 
heroes should be in consonance with the general taste. 

At this juncture, a highly talented poet arose, Mikhail 
Yurievitch Lermontoff (1814-1841), who, after first imi- 
tating Pushkin, speedily began to imitate Byron — and that 
with far more success than Pushkin had ever done — with 
great delicacy and artistic application to the local condi- 

Seventh Period 129 

tions. Thus, as a vivid, natural echo of this epoch in 
Russian life, the poet became dear to the heart of Rus- 
sians; and in the '40's they regarded him as the equal of 
the writers they most loved. 

Lermontoff, the son of a poor but noble family, was 
reared by his grandmother, as his mother died when he 
was a baby, and his father, an army officer, could not care 
for him. The grandmother did her utmost to give him 
the best education possible at that time, and to make him 
a brilliant society man. The early foreign influence over 
Pushkin was, as we have seen, French. That over 
Lermontoff was rather English, which was then becoming 
fashionable. But like many another young Russian of 
that day, Lermontoff wrote his first poems in French, 
imitating Pushkin's "The Fountain of Baktchesarai" and 
Byron's "The Prisoner of Chillon." He finished the 
preparatory school with the first prize for composition 
and history, and entered the University, which he was 
soon compelled to leave, in company with a number of 
others, because of a foolish prank they had played on a 
professor. In those days, when every one was engrossed 
in thoughts of military service and a career, and when the 
few remaining paths which were open to a poor young 
man had thus been closed to him, but one thing was left 
for him to do — enter the army. Accordingly, in 1832, 
Lermontoff entered the Ensigns' School in St. Peters- 
burg; but during his two years there he did not abandon 
verse-making, and here he first began to imitate Byron. 
A couple of poems, "Ismail Bey" (1832) and "Hadji 
Abrek" (1833) were published by a comrade, without 
Lermontoff's knowledge, at this time. In general, it may 
be said of Lermontoff at that period that he cared not in 

130 Russian Literature 

the least for literary fame, and made no haste to publish 
his writings, as to which he was very severe. Many were 
not published until five or six years after they were written. 
Soon after leaving the military school Lermontoff wrote 
a drama, "The Masquerade" (1834), and the fine poem, 
"Boyarin Orsha," but his fame began only in 1837, with 
his splendid poem on the death of Pushkin, "The Death 
of the Poet," beginning, "The poet perished, the slave 
of honor," in which he expressed his entire sympathy with 
the poet in his untimely death, and poured out all his 
bitterness upon the circle which was incapable of appreci- 
ating and prizing the genius. This, in a multitude of 
manuscript copies, created a great sensation in St. Peters- 
burg. Soon afterwards, on hearing contradictory rumors 
as to the duel and Pushkin's death, he added sixteen 
verses, beginning, "And you, ye arrogant descendants." 
One of the prominent persons therein attacked having had 
his attention called to the matter in public by an officious 
gossip (he had probably known all about it before, and 
deliberately ignored the matter), felt obliged to report 
Lermontoff. The result was that Lermontoff was trans- 
ferred as ensign to a dragoon regiment which was serving 
in Georgia, and early in 1837 he set out for the Caucasus. 
Through his grandmother's efforts he was permitted to 
return from the Caucasus about eight months later, to a 
hussar regiment. By this time people were beginning to 
appreciate him; he had written his magnificent "Ballad 
of Tzar Ivan Vasilievitch, the Young Lifeguardsman, and 
the Bold Merchant Kalashnikoff, " which every one hailed 
as an entirely new phenomenon in Russian literature, 
amazing in its highly artistic pictures, full of power and 
dignity, combined with an exterior like that of the inartis- 

Seventh Period T31 

tic productions of folk-poetry. This poem was productive 
of all the more astonishment, because his "The Demon," * 
written much earlier (1825-1834), was little known. 
"The Demon" is poor in contents, but surprisingly rich in 
wealth and luxury of coloring, and in the endless variety 
of its pictures of Caucasian life and nature. 

In 1838, while residing in St. Petersburg, Lermontoff 
wrote little at first, but in 1839 he wrote "Mtzyri," and a 
whole series of fine tales in prose, which eventually 
appeared under the general title of "A Hero of Our 
Times." This work, which has lost much of its vivid 
interest for people of the present day, must remain, never- 
theless, one of the most important monuments of that 
period to which Lermontoff so completely belonged. In 
the person of the hero, Petchorin, he endeavored to pre- 
sent "a portrait composed of the vices of the generation 
of which he was a contemporary," and he "drew the 
man of the period as he understood him, and as, unfortu- 
nately, he was too often met with. " Lermontoff admitted 
that in Petchorin he had tried to point out the "malady" 
which had attacked all Russian society of that day. All 
this he said in a preface to the second edition, after people 
had begun to declare that in the novel he had represented 
himself and his own experiences. Naturally Petchorin 
was drawn on Byronic lines, in keeping with the spirit of 
the '30's, when individuality loudly protested against the 
oppressive conditions of life. Naturally, also, all this 
now appears to be a caricature, true to the life of the 
highest Russian society as it was when it was written. 
Before he had quite completed this work, in February, 

* Rubinstein used this as a foundation for the libretto of his delightful 
opera, with the same title. 

132 Russian Literature 

1840, Lermontoff fought a duel with the son of Baron de 
Barante, a well-known French historian, and was trans- 
ferred, in consequence, to an infantry regiment in the 
Caucasus, whither he betook himself for the third time. 
A year later, after being permitted to make a brief stay 
in St. Petersburg, he returned to the Caucasus, and three 
months afterwards he was killed in a duel (on July 25, 
O. S., 1 841) with a fellow officer, Martynoff, and was 
buried on the estate in the government of Penza, where 
he had been reared by his grandmother. The latest work 
of the poet, thus cut off almost before his prime, con- 
sisted of lyrics, which were full of power and perfection, 
and gave plain promise of the approaching maturity of the 
still young and not fully developed but immense talent. 

His famous "Ballad of Tzar Ivan Vasilievitch, the 
Young Lifeguardsman, and the Bold Merchant Kalashni- 
koff" must be given in a summary and occasional quota- 
tions, as it is too long to reproduce in full. It lends itself 
better to dignified and adequate reproduction than do his 
lyrics, because it is not rhymed.* After a brief preface, 
the poet says: "We have composed a ballad in the ancient 
style, and have sung it to the sound of the dulcimer." 

The red sun shineth not in the heaven, 
The blue clouds delight not in it; 
But at his banqueting board, in golden crown, 
Sitteth the Terrible Tzar Ivan Vasilievitch. 
Behind him stand the table-deckers, 
Opposite him all the boyars and the princes, 
At his side, all about, the lifeguardsmen; 
And the Tzar feasteth to the glory of God, 
To his own content and merriment. 

♦Rubinstein used this as the libretto foundation for his opera of the 
same title, which was produced once, prohibited by the censor, produced 
once again after a lapse of eight or ten years, and again promptly prohib- 
ited. After another interval of years it was again permitted. 

Seventh Period 133 

The ballad goes on to relate how the Tzar then ordered 
the beakers to be filled with wine from beyond the seas, 
and how all drank and lauded the Tzar. One brave war- 
rior, a gallant youth, did not dip his mustache in the 
golden cup, but dropped his eyes, drooped his head, and 
meditated. The Tzar frowned, rapped on the floor with 
his iron-tipped staff, and finding that the young man still 
paid no heed, called him to account. "Hey, there, our 
faithful servant Kiribyeevitch, art thou concealing some 
dishonorable thought? Or art thou envious of our glory? 
Or hath our honorable service wearied thee?" and he 
reproaches the youth. Then Kiribyeevitch answered him, 
bowing to his girdle, begging the Tzar not to reproach his 
unworthy servant, but if he has offended the Tzar, he 
begs that the latter will order his head to be cut off. "It 
oppresseth my heroic shoulders, and itself unto the damp 
earth doth incline." The Tzar inquires why the life- 
guardsman is sad. "Has his kaftan of gold brocade 
grown threadbare? Has his cap of sables got shabby? 
Has he exhausted his treasure? Has his well-tempered 
saber got nicked? Or has some merchant's son from 
across the Moscow River overcome him in a boxing 
match? ' ' The young lif eguardsman shakes his curly head, 
and says that all these things are as they should be, but 
that while he was riding his mettlesome steed in the Trans- 
Moscow River quarter of the town (the merchant's quar- 
ter), with his silken girdle drawn taut, his velvet cap 
rimmed jauntily with black sables, fair young maidens had 
stood at the board gates, gazing at him, admiring and 
whispering together; but one there was who gazed not, 
admired not, but covered her face with her striped veil, 
"and in all Holy Russia, our Mother, no such beauty is to 

134 Russian Literature 

be found or searched out. She walketh swimmingly, as 
though she were a young swan. She gazeth sweetly, as 
though she were a dove. When she uttereth a word, 'tis 
like a nightingale warbling. Her cheeks are aflame with 
roses, like unto the dawn in God's heaven. Her tresses 
of ruddy gold, intertwined with bright ribbons, flow rip- 
pling down her shoulders, and kiss her white bosom. She 
was born in a merchant's family. Her name is Alyona * 

He describes how he has fallen in love with her at first 
sight, and cares no more for anything in all the world 
save her, and begs that he may be sent away to the steppes 
along the Volga, to live a free kazak life, where he may 
lay his "turbulent head" on a Mussulman's spear (in the 
fights with the Tatars of Kazan is what is meant), where 
the vultures may claw out his tearful eyes, and his gray 
bones be washed by the rain, and his wretched dust, with- 
out burial, may be scattered to the four quarters of the 
compass. Tzar Ivan Vasilievitch laughs, advises him to 
send gifts to his Alyona, and celebrate the wedding. The 
lifeguardsman then confesses that he has not told the 
whole truth; that the beauty is already the wife of a 
young merchant. 

'In Part II., the young merchant is represented as 
seated at his shop-board, a stately, dashing young fellow, 
Stepan Paramonovitch Kalashnikoff, spreading out his 
silken wares, beguiling his patrons (or "guests") with 
flattering speech, counting out gold and silver. But it is 
one of his bad days; the wealthy lords pass and do not so 
much as glance at his shop. "The bells of the holy 
churches have finished chiming for Vespers. The cloudy 

* An unaristocratic form of Elena— Helen. 

Seventh Period 135 

glow of evening burneth behind the Kremlin. Little 
clouds are flitting athwart the sky. The great Gostiny 
Dvor * is empty." And Stepan Paramonovitch locks the 
oaken door of his shop with a German (that is, a foreign) 
spring-lock, fastens the fierce, snarling dog to the iron 
chain, and goes thoughtfully home to his young housewife 
beyond the Moscow River. On arriving there he is sur- 
prised that his wife does not come to meet him, as is her 
wont. The oaken table is not set, the taper before the 
ikona (the holy picture) is almost burned out. He sum- 
mons the old maid-servant and asks where his wife is at 
that late hour, and what has become of his children? The 
servant replies that his wife went to Vespers as usual, but 
the priest and his wife have already sat down to sup, yet 
the young housewife has not returned, and his little chil- 
dren are neither playing nor in bed, but weeping bitterly. 
As young Merchant Kalashnikoff then looks out into the 
gloomy street he sees that the night is very dark, snow is 
falling, covering up men's tracks, and he hears the outer 
door slam, then hasty footsteps approaching, turns round 
and beholds his young wife, pale, with hair uncovered 
(which is highly improper for a married woman), her 
chestnut locks unbraided, sprinkled with snow and hoar- 
frost, her eyes dull and wild, her lips muttering unintel- 
ligibly. The husband inquires where she has been, the 
reason for her condition, and threatens to lock her up 
behind an iron-bound oaken door, away from the light of 
day. She, weeping bitterly, begs her "lord, her fair little 
red sun," to slay her or to listen to her, and she explains, 
that as she was coming home from Vespers she heard the 
snow crunching behind her, glanced round, and beheld a 
*The "Guests' Court," that is, the bazaar. 

136 Russian Literature 

man running. She covered herself with her veil, but the 
man seized her hands, bade her have no fear, and said 
that he was no robber, but the servant of the Terrible * 
Tzar, Kiribyeevitch, from the famous family of Maliuta, 
promised her her heart's desire — gold, pearls, bright gems, 
flowered brocades — if she would but love him, and grant 
him one embrace. Then he caressed and kissed her, so 
that her cheeks are still burning, while the neighbors 
looked on, laughed, and pointed their fingers at her in 
scorn. Tearing herself from his hands, she fled home- 
wards, leaving in his hands her flowered kerchief (her 
husband's gift) and her Bokhara veil. She entreats her 
husband not to give her over to the scorn of their neigh- 
bors, she is an orphan, her elder brother is in a foreign 
land, her younger brother still a mere child. 

Stepan Paramonovitch thereupon sends for his two 
younger brothers, but they send back a demand to know 
what has happened that he should require their presence 
on a dark, cold night. He informs them that Kiribyee- 
vitch, the lifeguardsman, has dishonored their family; 
that such an insult the soul cannot brook, neither a brave 
man's heart endure. On the morrow there is to be a fight 
with fists in the presence of the Tzar himself, and it is his 
intention to go to it, and stand up against that lifeguards- 
man and fight him to the death until his strength is gone. 
He asks them, in case he is killed, to step forth for "Holy 
Mother right, ' ' and as they are younger than he, fresher 
in strength, and with fewer sins on their heads, perchance 
the Lord will show mercy upon them. And this reply his 
brethren spake: "Whither the breeze bloweth beneath the 

*His Russian name, "Grozny," means, rather, "menacing, threaten- 
ing," than "terrible," the customary translation, being derived from 
"* groza," a thunderstorm. 

Seventh Period 137 

sky, thither hasten the dutiful little clouds. When the 
dark blue eagle summoneth with his voice to the bloody 
vale of slaughter, summoneth to celebrate the feast, to 
clear away the dead, to him do the little eaglets -wing 
their flight. Thou art our elder brother, our second 
father, do what thou see'st fit, and deemest best, and we 
will not fail thee, our own blood and bone." 

Part III. picturesquely and vividly describes the scene 
of the encounter; the challenge to the combatants to stand 
forth, by command of the Tzar, with a promise in the 
latter' s name that the victors shall receive from him 
rewards. Then the redoubtable Lifeguardsmen Kiribyee- 
vitch steps forth. Thrice the challenge is repeated before 
any one responds. Then young Merchant Kalashnikoff 
comes forward, makes his reverence to the Tzar, and 
when Kiribyeevitch demands his name, he announces it, 
and adds that he was born of an honorable father and has 
always lived according to God's law; he has not cast his 
eyes on another man's wife, nor played the bandit on a 
dark night, nor hid from the light of heaven, and that he 
means to fight to the death. On hearing this, Kiribyee- 
vitch " turned pale as snow in autumn, his bold eyes 
clouded over, a shiver ran through his mighty shoulders, 
on his parted lips the words fell dead." With one blow, 
the young merchant crushes in the lifeguardsman's breast, 
and the latter falls dead, the death being beautifully 
described in stately, picturesque language. At sight 
thereof, the Tzar Ivan Vasilievitch waxed wroth, stamped 
on the earth, scowled with his black brows; ordered that 
the young merchant be seized and hauled before him. He 
then demands whether Kalashnikoff has slain his faithful 
servant Kiribyeevitch "voluntarily, involuntarily, or 

138 Russian Literature 

against his will." Kalashnikoff boldly makes answer that 
he has done it with deliberate intent, and that the reason 
therefor he will not tell to the Tzar, but only to God 
alone. He tells the Tzar to order him to be executed, 
but not to deprive his little children or his young widow 
and his brothers of his favor. The Tzar replies that it 
is well Kalashnikoff has answered truthfully; he will give 
the young widow and the children a grant from his treas- 
ury, and g^ve command that, from that day forth, his 
brothers may traffic throughout the wide Russian realm 
free of taxes. But Kalashnikoff must mount the scaffold, 
lay down his turbulent head, and the executioner shall be 
ordered to make his axe very sharp, and the great bell 
shall be tolled in order that all the men of Moscow may 
know that the Tzar has not deprived him of his favor. 
The execution and Kalashnikoff' s farewell speeches to his 
brothers, with his last messages to his wife not to grieve 
so greatly, and his commands that she is not to tell his 
children how their father died, together with requests for 
prayers for his soul, are described in very touching and 
lofty terms, as are also the burial, and the scenes at the 

The influence of Schelling's philosophy on the society of 
Moscow (the literary center until half-way through the 
'30 's of the nineteenth century) was very great. This 
philosophy held that every historical nation should express 
some idea or other; that a nation could be called historical 
only on condition of its being independent in this respect; 
and that its importance in the progress of general civiliza- 
tion is determined by its degree of independence. This 
set all thoughtfu] people to considering the place of Russia 

Seventh Period 139 

among the European nations; and all the problems sug- 
gested by this philosophy came up with special force in 
the Russian literature of the end of the '30's, and split 
society into two great camps — the Slavyanophils (Slavo- 
phils)* and the Westerners. These camps had existed 
earlier, but had concerned themselves only with the purifi- 
cation of the Russian language, or with sentimental admi- 
ration for everything Russian, or for everything foreign, 
as the case might be. But now both parties undertook to 
solve the problems connected with the fate of the nation. 
Schelling's philosophy also suggested new views as to 
the theory of art and the significance of literature in the 
life of a nation, and evolved the conclusion, that a nation's 
literature, even more than its civilization, should be entirely 
independent. This naturally led the Slavyanophils to 
reflect upon the indispensability of establishing Russian 
literature on a thoroughly national, independent basis. 
Naturally, also, this led to the Slavyanophils contesting 
the existence of a Russian literature in the proper sense 
of the term; since the whole of it, from Lomonosoff to 
Pushkin, had been merely a servile imitation of Western 
literature, and did not in the least express the spirit 
of the Russian people, and of the Schellingists. A num- 
ber of the professors in the Moscow University belonged 
to this party. Naturally the students in their depart- 
ment — the philological faculty — came under their influ- 
ence, and under this influence was reared the famous 
Russian critic, Vissarion Grigorievitch Byelinsky (181 1- 
1848). His name is chiefly identified with the journal 
"The Annals of the Fatherland" (of St. Petersburg), 

* Most Russians prefer to have the world " Slavyane " translated Slavon- 
ians, rather than Slavs, as the latter is calculated to mislead. 

140 Russian Literature 

where he published his brilliant critical articles on Gribo- 
yedoff, Gogol's "The Inspector," on Lermontoff's works, 
and on those of other writers; on French contemporary 
literature, and on current topics at home and abroad, 
among them articles condemning many characteristics of 
Russian society, both intellectual and moral, such as the 
absence of intellectual interests, routine, narrowness, and 
egotism in the middle-class merchants; self-satisfied 
Philistinism; the patriarchal laxity of provincial morals; 
the lack of humanity and the Asiatic ferocity towards 
inferiors; the slavery of women and children under the 
weight of family despotism. His volume of articles on 
Pushkin constitute a complete critical history of Russian 
literature, beginning with Lomonosoff and ending with 
Pushkin. By these Byelinsky's standing as an important 
factor in literature was thoroughly established, and all the 
young writers of the succeeding epoch, that of the '50's, 
gathered around him. Grigorovitch, Turgeneff, Gont- 
charoff, Nekrasoff, Apollon Maikoff, Dostoevsky, Tol- 
stoy, and the rest, may be said to have been reared on 
Byelinsky's criticism, inspired by it to creative activity, 
and indebted to it for much of their fame. Byelinsky, 
moreover, educated the minds of that whole generation, 
and prepared men for the social movement of the '6o's, 
which was characterized by many reforms. 

After 1846 Byelinsky was connected with the journal, 
"The Contemporary," published by the poet Nekrasoff, 
and I. I. Panaeff, to which the best writers of the day 
contributed. Here, during the brief period when his 
health permitted him to work, he expressed even bolder 
and more practical ideas, and became the advocate of the 
"natural school," of which he regarded Gogol as the 

Seventh Period 141 

founder, wherein poetry was treated as an integral part of 
every-day life. Turgeneff has declared, that Byelinsky 
indisputably possessed all the chief qualities of a great 
critic, and that no one before him, or better than he, ever 
expressed a correct judgment and an authoritative verdict, 
and that he was, emphatically, "the right man in the right 

One author who deserves to be better known outside 
of Russia produced the really original and indescribably 
fascinating works on which his fame rests during the last 
ten or twelve years of his long life, late in the '40's and 
'50's, although he was much older than the authors we 
have recently studied, and began to write much earlier 
than many of them. His early writing, however, was in 
the classical style, and does not count in comparison with 
his original descriptions of nature, and of the life of the 
(comparatively) distant past. Sergyei Timofeevitch Aksa- 
koff (1 791-1859), the descendant of a very ancient noble 
family, was born in far-away eastern Russia, in Ufa, and 
was very well educated by his mother, at schools, and at 
Kazan University. His talents first revealed themselves 
in 1847, in his "Notes on Angling," and his "Diary of a 
Sportsman with a Gun," in the Orenburg Government 
(1852). Most famous of all, and most delightful, are the 
companion volumes, "A Family Chronicle and Souvenirs" 
(1856) and "The Childhood's Years of Bagroff's Grand- 
son" (1858). In these Russian descriptive language made 
a great stride in advance, even after Pushkin and Gogol; 
and as a limner of landscape, he has no equal in Russian 
literature. The most noteworthy point about his work is* 
that there is not a trace of creative fancy or invention; he 
describes reality, takes everything straight from life, and 

142 Russian Literature 

describes it with amazing faithfulness and artistic harmony. 
He was the first Russian writer to look on Russian life 
from a positive instead of from a negative point of 

Pushkin's period had been important, not only in ren- 
dering Russian literature national, but still more so in 
bringing literature into close connection with life and its 
interests. This had in turn led to a love of reading and 
of literature all over the country, and had developed latent 
talents. This love spread to classes hitherto unaffected 
by it; and among the talents it thus developed, none was 
more thoroughly independent than that of Alexei Vasilie- 
vitch Koltzoff (1809-1842), who was so original, so wholly 
unique in his genius, that he cannot rightly be assigned to 
any class, and still stands as an isolated phenomenon. 
He was the son of a merchant of Voronezh, who was 
possessed of considerable means, and he spent the greater 
part of his youth on the steppes, helping his father, a 
drover, who supplied tallow-factories. After being taught 
to read and write by a theological student, young Koltzoff 
was sent to the district school for four months, after 
which his education was regarded as finished, because he 
knew as much as the people about him, and because no 
more was required for business purposes. But the lad 
acquired a strong love of reading, and devoted himself to 
such literature as he could procure, popular fairy-tales, 
the "Thousand and One Nights," and so. forth. He was 
sixteen years of age when Dmitrieff's works fell into his 
hands, and inspired him with a desire to imitate them, and 

* His " Family Chronicle" was the favorite book (during her girlhood) 
of Marya Alexandrovna, the daughter of Alexander II., afterwards Duchess 
of Edinburg, and now Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. I made acquaint- 
ance with this fascinating work by reading aloud from her copy to a mutual 
friend, a Russian. 

Seventh Period 143 

to "make songs" himself. As yet he did not understand 
the difference between poetry and popular songs, and did 
not read verses, but sang them. The local book-seller 
was the first to recognize his poetical tendency, and in a 
degree, guided him on the right road with a "Russian 
Prosody, ' ' and other suitable books, such as the works of 
Zhukovsky, Pushkin, and other contemporary poets. A 
passion for writing poetry was in the air in the '20's. 
But although he yielded to this and to the promptings of 
his genius, it was a long time before he was able to clothe 
his thoughts in tolerable form. An unhappy love had a 
powerful influence on the development of his poetical 
talent, and his versified efforts suddenly became fervent 
songs of love and hate, of melancholy, soulful cries of 
grief and woe, full of melodious expressions of the world 
about him. One of Byelinsky's friends, whose family 
lived near Voronezh, made his acquaintance, read his 
poems and applauded much in them. Three years later, 
in 1833, at the request and expense of this new friend, 
Koltzoff published a small collection, containing eighteen 
poems selected by him, which showed that he possessed 
an original and really noteworthy poetical gift. In 1835 
Koltzoff visited St. Petersburg and made acquaintance 
with Pushkin, Zhukovsky, and many other literary men, 
and between 1836 and 1838 his fame penetrated even to 
the knowledge of the citizens in his native town. He 
continued to aid his father in business, but his heart was 
elsewhere — he longed for the intellectual companionship 
of his friends in Moscow, and all this rendered him 
extremely unhappy. In 1840 he spent three months with 
Byelinsky in St. Petersburg, and after that he remained 
in Voronezh, had another unhappy love affair, and dreamed 

144 Russian Literature 

continually of the possibility of quitting the place for 
good. But his father would not give him a kopek for 
such a purpose. His health gave way, and he died in 
1842, aged thirty-three. 

His poems are few in number, and the best of them 
belong to an entirely peculiar style, which he alone in Rus- 
sian literature possesses, to which he alone imparted sig- 
nificance — the ballad, the national ballad compact, 
powerful, rich in expression, and highly artistic. The 
charm of nationality is so great, as expressed in Kolt- 
zoff's songs, that it is almost impossible to read them; 
one wants to sing them as the author sang the verses of 
others in his boyhood. Even his peculiar measures, 
which are not at all adapted to popular songs, do not 
destroy the harmonious impression made by them, and 
such pieces as "The Forest," "The Ballads of Cabman 
Kudryavitch, " "The Perfidy of the Affianced Bride," 
and others, not only belong to the most notable produc- 
tions of Russian lyric poetry, but are also representatives 
of an important historical phenomenon, as the first attempt 
to combine in one organic whole Russian artistic litera- 
ture and the inexhaustible vast inartistic poetry of the 
people. "The Perfidy of the Affianced Bride," which is 
not rhymed in the original, runs as follows: 

Hot in heaven the summer sun doth shine, 
But me, young though I be, it warmeth not! 
My heart is dead with cold 
Through the perfidy of my affianced bride. 

Woe-sadness upon me hath fallen, 

Upon my sorrowful head; 

My soul by deadly anguish is tormented, 

And from my body my soul doth long to flee. 

Seventh Period 145 

Unto men have I resorted for help — 
With a laugh have they turned away ; 
To the grave of my father, my mother — 
But they rise not at my call. 

The world grew dark before mine eyes, 
Upon the grass I swooned. 
At dead of night, in a dreadful storm, 
They lifted me from the grave. 

At night, in the storm, I saddled my steed; 
I set out, caring not whither I went — 
To lead a wretched life, to console myself, 
With rancor to demand satisfaction from men. 

Romanticism established, as its first principles, freedom 
of creation and nationality of poetry, and these principles 
survived romanticism itself. Now, while romanticism 
preached freedom of creation, it circumscribed this free- 
dom by selecting as subjects for poetical compositions 
chiefly the extraordinary sides of life, its majestic 
moments. Its heroes were always choice, powerful 
natures, who suffered profoundly because of the lot of all 
mankind, and were capable of gigantic conflicts against 
the whole world. Classicism had bequeathed this habit 
of regarding as worthy of poetical treatment only heroes 
who stood out from the mass, and of depicting these 
heroes only at critical crises. All this depended, in a 
great degree, upon the political and social conditions 
which prevailed at that epoch — the beginning of the nine- 
teenth century. But quieter, more peaceful times dawned, 
and with them men's tastes and habits of mind underwent 
a change. They grew tired of scorning and hating reality, 
because it did not conform to their cherished dreams, and 
they began coolly to study it. The titanic heroes, who had 

146 Russian Literature 

become tiresome and anti-pathetic to the last degree, made 
way for ordinary mortals in their everyday surroundings. 
Lyrical exaltation was superseded by calm observation, or 
disintegrating analysis of the different elements of life; 
pathetic misery made way for cold irony, or jeeringly 
melancholy humor; and at last poetry was succeeded by 
prose, and the ruling poetical forms of the new epoch 
became the romance and the novel. This change took 
place almost simultaneously in all the literatures of 

We have seen that Pushkin, towards the end of his 
career, entered upon this new path, with his prose tales, 
"The Captain's Daughter," "Dubrovsky," and so forth, 
and throughout the '30's of the nineteenth century, the 
romance and novel came, more and more, to occupy the 
most prominent place in Russian literature. We may 
pass over the rather long list of second-class writers who 
adventured in this field (of whom Zagoskin and Marlinsky 
are most frequently referred to), and devote our attention 
to the man who has been repeatedly called "the father 
of modern Russian realism," Nikolai Vasilievitch Gogol 
( 1 809-1 852). He is credited with having created all the 
types which we encounter in the works of the great novel- 
ists who followed him, and this is almost literally true, at 
least so far as the male characters are concerned. In 
particular, this applies to his famous "Dead Souls," 
which contains if not the condensed characterization in 
full of these types, at least the readily recognized germs 
of them. But in this respect, his early Little Russian 
Stories, "Tales from a Farm-house Near Dikanka," and 
the companion volume, "Mirgorod, " as well as his famous 
comedy, "The Inspector," must not be forgotten, for 

Seventh Period 147 

they contributed their full quota. Pushkin was one of 
Gogol's earliest and most ardent admirers, and it was 
because he recognized the latter's phenomenal talent in 
seizing the national types that he gave to him the idea for 
"Dead Souls," which he had intended to use himself. 
Thanks to his own genius (as well as to the atmosphere 
of the epoch in which he lived), he solved for himself, 
quite independently of any foreign influence, the problem 
of bringing Russian literature down from the clouds to 
everyday real life. He realized that the world was no 
longer living in a sort of modern epic, as it had been 
during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic cam- 
paigns, and that literature must conform to the altered 
conditions. Naturally, in his new quest after truth, 
Gogol-Yanovsky (to give him his full name) mingled 
romanticism and realism at first. But he soon discovered 
the true path. He was born and reared in Little Russia, 
at Sorotchinsky, Government of Poltava, and was sepa- 
rated only by two generations from the famous epoch of 
the Zaporozhian kazaks, who lived (as their name implies) 
below the rapids of the Dniepr. He has depicted their 
life in his magnificent novel "Taras Bulba." His grand- 
father had been the regimental scribe — a post of honor — 
of that kazak army, and the spirit of the Zaporozhian 
kazaks still lingered over the land which was full of 
legends, fervent, superstitious piety, and poetry. 

Gogol's grandfather, who figures as "Rudy Panko, the 
bee-farmer," in the two volumes of Little Russian stories 
which established his fame, narrated to him at least one- 
half of those stories. His father, also, who represented 
the modern spirit, was an inimitable narrator of comic 
stories, and the talents of father and grandfather rendered 

148 Russian Literature 

their house the popular center of a very extensive neigh- 

At school Gogol did not distinguish himself, but he 
wrote a good deal, all of an imitative character. After 
leaving school, it was with difficulty that he secured a 
place as copying-clerk, at a wretched salary, in St. Peters- 
burg. He promptly resigned this when fame came, and 
secured the appointment as professor of history. But he 
was a hopelessly incompetent professor of history, despite 
his soaring ambitions, both on account of his lack of 
scholarship and the natural bent of his mind. The liter- 
ary men who had obtained the position for him had 
discerned his immense talent in a perfectly new style of 
writing; and after failure had convinced him that heavy, 
scientific work was not in his line, he recognized the 
fact himself, and decided to devote himself to the sort of 
work for which nature had intended him. The first vol- 
ume of his "Tales from a Farm-house Near Dikanka" 
appeared at the end of 1 83 1, and had an immense suc- 
cess. The second volume, "Mirgorod," was equally 
successful, all the more so, as it introduced, together with 
the pure merriment which had characterized the earlier 
tales, and the realism which was his specialty, so to speak, 
a new element — pathos; "laughter piercing through a mist 
of tears." In this style "Old-fashioned Gentry" * and 
"How Ivan Ivanovitch Quarrelled with Ivan Nikiforo- 
vitch" are famous examples. Success always turned 
Gogol's head, and he immediately aspired to some under- 
taking far beyond his powers. In this case, for instance, 
despising, as usual, what he could do best, he planned a 

* Literally, "Old-fashioned Landed Proprietors," who would, as a matter 
of course, belong to the gentry, or " nobility," as the Russian term is. This 
title is often translated, " Old-fashioned Farmers." 

Seventh Period 149 

huge work, in nine volumes, on the history of the Middle 
Ages. Fortunately, his preparatory studies in the history 
of Little Russia led him to write his splendid epic, which 
is a composition of the highest art, "Taras Biilba," and 
diverted him from his ill-digested project. 

He began to recognize that literary work was not 
merely a pastime, but his moral duty; and the first result 
of this conviction was his great play "The Inspector," 
finished in April, 1836. The authorities refused to pro- 
duce it, but the Emperor Nicholas I. heard about it, read 
it, and gave imperative orders that it should be put on the 
stage, upholding Gogol with rapturous delight. Every- 
body — officials, the police, literary people, merchants — 
attacked the author. They raged at this comedy, refused 
to recognize their too lifelike portraits, and still endeavored 
to have the play prohibited. Gogol's health and spirits 
failed under this persecution, and he fled abroad, whence 
thereafter he returned to Russia only at long intervals and 
for brief visits, chiefly to Moscow, where most of his faith- 
ful friends resided. He traveled a great deal, but spent 
most of his time in Rome, where his lavish charities kept 
him perennially poor despite the eventual and complete 
success, both artistically and financially, of "The Inspec- 
tor," and of Part I. of "Dead Souls," which would have 
enabled him to live in comfort. He was wont to say that 
he could see Russia plainly only when he was at a distance 
from her, and in a measure, he proved the truth of his 
contention in the first volume of "Dead Souls." Thereby 
he justified Pushkin's expectations in giving him the sub- 
ject of that work, which he hoped would enable Gogol to 
depict the classes and localities of the fatherland in the 
concentrated form of types. But he lived too long in 

150 Russian Literature 

Rome. The Russian mind in general is much inclined to 
mysticism, and Little Russia, in Gogol's boyhood, was 
exceptionally permeated with exaggerated religious senti- 
ment. Mysticism seems to be peculiarly fatal to Russian 
writers of eminence; we have seen how Von Vizin and 
Zhukovsky were affected toward the end of their lives; 
we have a typical and even more pronounced example of 
it in a somewhat different form at the present time in 
Count L. N. Tolstoy. Lermontoff had inclined in that 
direction. Hence, it is not surprising that the moral and 
physical atmosphere of Rome, during a too prolonged 
residence there, eventually ruined Gogol's mind and health, 
and extinguished the last sparks of his genius, especially 
as even in his school-days he had shown a marked tend- 
ency (in his letters to his mother) to religious exaltation. 
Now, under the pressure of his personal tendencies and 
friendships, and the clerical atmosphere of Rome, he 
developed into a mystic and an ascetic of the most extreme 
type. He regarded all his earlier writings as sins which 
must be atoned for (precisely as Count L. N. Tolstoy 
regards his masterpieces at the present time) ; and never- 
theless, his overweening self-esteem was so nattered by 
the tremendous success of "The Inspector" and the first 
part of "Dead Souls" that he began to regard himself as 
a sort of divinely commissioned prophet, on whom it was 
incumbent to preach to his fellow-men. It will be seen 
that the parallel holds good in this respect also. Extracts 
from his hortatory letters which he published proved to 
Russians that his day was over. His failure in his self- 
imposed mission plunged him into the extremes of self- 
torment, and his lucid moments grew more and more rare. 
He destroyed what he had written of the second part of 

Seventh Period 151 

"Dead Souls," in the attacks of ecstatic remorse at such 
profane work which followed. (By some authorities it is 
believed that he did this unintentionally, meani'ng to destroy 
an entirely different set of papers.) In 1848 he made a 
pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and went thence to Moscow, 
where he resided until his death, becoming more and more 
extreme in his mysticism and asceticism. He spent sleep- 
less nights in prayer; he tried to carry fasting to the 
extent of living for a week on one of the tiny double 
loaves which are used for the Holy Communion in the 
Eastern Catholic Church, a feat which it is affirmed can 
be performed with success, and even to more exaggerated 
extent, by practiced ascetics. Gogol died. His observa- 
tion was acute; his humor was genuine, natural, infec- 
tious; his realism was of the most vivid description; his 
power of limning types was unsurpassed, and it is these 
types which have entered, as to their essential ingredients, 
into the works of his successors, that have rendered the 
Russian realistic literary school famous. He wrote only 
one complete play besides "The Inspector," and it is still 
acted occasionally, but it is not of a sort to appeal to the 
universal public, as is his famous comedy. The fantastic 
but amusing plot of this lesser comedy, "Marriage," is 
founded upon a young girl's meditations on that theme, 
and the actions which lead up to and follow them. The 
wealthy heroine of the merchant class, being desirous of 
marrying, enlists the services of the professional match- 
maker, the old-time Russian matrimonial agent, in the 
merchant and peasant classes. This match-maker offers 
for her choice several eligible suitors (all strangers), and 
the girl makes her choice. She is well pleased with it, 
but suddenly begins to speculate on the future; is moved 

152 Russian Literature 

to tears by the prospect that her daughter may be unhappy 
in a hypothetical marriage, in the dim future; and at last, 
driven to despair by this painful picture of her fancy, she 
evades her betrothed and breaks off the match. 

The interest of "The Inspector" is perennial and uni- 
versal; official negligence, corruption, bribery, masculine 
vanity and boastfulness, and feminine failings to match, 
are the exclusive prerogatives of no one nation or epoch. 
The comedy is not a caricature, but it is a faithful society 
portrait and satire, with intense condensation of character, 
and traits which are not only truly and typically Russian, 
but come within the ken of all fair-minded persons of other 
lands. The scene opens in a room at the house of the 
Chief of Police in a provincial town. Those present are: 
The Chief himself, the Curator of the Board of Benevo- 
lent Institutions, the Superintendent of Schools, the Judge, 
the Commissioner of Police, the Doctor, and two police- 

Chief. — I have summoned you hither, gentlemen, in order 
to communicate to you an unpleasant piece of news. An In- 
spector is coming. 

Judge. — What! An Inspector? 

Chief. — An Inspector from St. Petersburg, incognito, and 
with secret orders, to boot. 

Judge. — I thought so! 

Curator. — If there's not trouble, I'm mistaken! 

Chief. — I have warned you, gentlemen. See to it! I have 
made some arrangements in my own department, and I advise 
you to do the same. Especially you, Artemy Philipp'itch! With- 
out a doubt, this traveling official will wish, first of all, to 
inspect your institutions, and therefore, you must arrange 
things so that they will be decent. The nightcaps should be 
clean, and the sick people should not look like blacksmiths, as 
they usually do in private. 

Seventh Period 153 

Curator. — Well, that is a mere trifle. We can put clean 
nightcaps on them. 

Chief. — Moreover, you ought to have written up, over the 
head of each bed, in Latin or some other language — that's your 
affair — the name of each disease; when each patient was taken 
sick, the day and the hour. It is not well that your sick people 
should smoke such strong tobacco that one has to sneeze every 
time he goes in there. Yes, and it would be better if there 
were fewer of them; it will be set down at once to bad super- 
vision, or to lack of skill on the doctor's part. 

Curator. — Oh, so far as the doctoring is concerned, Chris- 
tian Iv^n'itch and I have already taken measures; the nearer 
to nature, the better — we don't use any expensive medicines. 
Man is a simple creature; if he dies, why then, he dies; if he 
gets well, why then, he gets well; and moreover, it would have 
been difficult for Christian IvaVitch to make them understand 
him; he doesn't know one word of Russian. 

Chief. — I should also advise you, Ammos Feodor'itch, to 
turn your attention to court affairs. In the anteroom, where 
the clients usually assemble, your janitor has got a lot of geese 
and goslings, which waddle about under foot. Of course it is 
praiseworthy to be thrifty in domestic affairs, and why should 
not the janitor be so, too? Only, you know, it is not proper in that 
place. I intended to mention it to you before, but always forgot it. 

Judge.— I'll order them to be taken to the kitchen this very 
day. Will you dine with me? 

Chief. — And moreover, it is not well that all sorts of stuff 
should be put to dry in the court-room, and that over the very 
desk with the documents, there should be a hunting-whip. 
.... Yes, and strange to say, there is no man who has 
not his faults. God himself has arranged it so, and it is useless 
for free-thinkers to maintain the contrary. 

Judge.— What do you mean by 'faults,' Anton Anton'itch? 
There are various sorts of faults. I tell every one frankly that 
I take bribes; but what sort of bribes? Greyhound pups. That's 
quite another thing. 

Chief. — Well, greyhound pups or anything else, it's all the 

154 Russian Literature 

Judge. — Well, no, Anton Anton'itch. But, for example, if 
some one has a fur coat worth five hundred rubles, and his 
wife has a shawl — 

Chief. — Well, and how about your taking greyhound pups 
as bribes? Why don't you trust in God? You never go to 
church. I am firm in the faith, at all events, and go to church 
every Sunday. But you — oh, I know you! If you begin to talk 
about the creation, one's hair rises straight up on his head. 

Judge. — It came of itself, of its own accord. 

Chief. — Well, in some cases, it is worse to have brains than 
to be entirely without them. As for you, Luka Luk'itch, as 
superintendent of schools, you must bestir yourself with regard 
to the teachers. One of them, for instance, the fat-faced one — 
I don't recall his name— cannot get along without making grim- 
aces when he takes his seat— like this {makes a grimace); and 
then he begins to smooth his beard out from under his necker- 
chief with his hand. In short, if he makes such faces at the 
scholars, there is nothing to be said; it must be necessary; I am 
no judge as to that. But just consider — if he were to do that 
to a visitor, it might be very unpleasant; the Inspector, or any- 
one else, might take it as personal. The Devil knows what 

might come of it And I must also mention the 

teacher of history. He's a learned man, that's plain; but he 
expresses himself with so much warmth that he loses control 
of himself. I heard him once; well, so long as he was talking 
about the Assyrians and the Babylonians, it was all right; but 
when he got to Alexander of Macedon, I can't describe to you 
what came over him. I thought there was a fire, by heavens! 
He jumped up from his seat, and dashed his chair down against 
the floor with all his might. Alexander of Macedon was a hero, 
no doubt; but why smash the chairs ?(*) There will be a deficit 
in the accounts, just as the result of that. 

Superintendent.— Yes, he is hasty! I have spoken to him 
about it several times. He says: "What would you have? I 
would sacrifice my life for science." 

Chief. — Yes, such is the incomprehensible decree of Fate; 

*This expression has become proverbial in Russia, and is used to repress 
any one who becomes unduly excited. 

Seventh Period 155 

a learned man is always a drunkard, or else he makes faces 
that would scare the very saints. 

As the play proceeds in this lively vein, two men about 
town — in a humble way — the public busybodies, happen to 
discover at the Inn a traveler who has been living on credit 
for two weeks, and going nowhere. The landlord is on 
the point of putting the man in prison for debt, when the 
busybodies jump to the conclusion that he is the Inspector. 
The Prefect and the other officials accept their suggestion 
in spite of the traveler's plain statement as to his own 
identity as an uninfluential citizen. They set about making 
the town presentable, entertain him, bribe him against his 
will, and bow down before him. He enters into the spirit 
of the thing after a brief delay, accepts the hospitality, 
asks for loans, makes love to the Prefect's silly wife and 
daughter, betroths himself to the latter, receives the peti- 
tions and the bribes of the downtrodden townspeople, and 
goes off with the best post-horses the town can furnish, 
ostensibly to ask the blessing of a rich old uncle on his 
marriage. The Postmaster intercepts a cynically frank 
letter which the man has written to a friend, and in which 
he heaps ridicule on his credulous hosts. This opens 
their eyes at last, and at that moment, a gendarme appears 
and announces that the Inspector has arrived. Tableau. 

Gogol's two volumes of Little Russian Tales, above- 
mentioned, must remain classics, and the volume of St. 
Petersburg Tales contains essentially the same ingredients, 
so that they may be considered as a whole. All the tales in 
the first two volumes are from his beloved native Little 
Russia. Some are merely poetical renderings of popular 
legends, counterparts of which are to be found in the folk- 
lore of many lands; such are "Vy," and "St. John's 

156 Russian Literature 

Eve's" and the exquisite "May Night," where the famous 
poetical spirit of the Ukraina (borderland) is displayed in 
its fullest force and beauty. "Know ye the night of the 
Ukraina?" he writes. "O, ye do not know the Ukraina 
night! Look upon it; from the midst of the sky gazes the 
moon; the illimitable vault of heaven has withdrawn into 
the far distance, has spread out still more immeasurably; 
it burns and breathes; the earth is all bathed in silvery 
light; and the air is wondrous, and cool, and perfumed, 
and full of tenderness, and an ocean of sweet odors is 
abroad. A night divine! An enchanting night! The 
forests stand motionless, inspired, full of darkness, and 
cast forth a vast shadow. Calm and quiet are the pools; 
the coldness and gloom of their waters is morosely hemmed 
in by the dark green walls of gardens. The virgin copses 
of wild bird-cherry and black cherry trees stretch forth 
their roots towards the coolness of the springs, and from 
time to time their leaves whisper as though in anger and 
indignation, when a lovely little breeze, and the wind of 
the night, creeping up for a moment, kisses them. All 
the landscape lies in slumber. But on high, everything 
is breathing with life, everything is marvelous, everything 
is solemnly triumphant. And in the soul there is some- 
thing illimitable and wondrous, and throngs of silvery 
visions make their way into its depths. Night divine! 
Enchanting night ! And all of a sudden, everything has 
become instinct with life; forests, pools, and steppes. 
The magnificent thunder of the Ukraina nightingale 
becomes audible, and one fancies that the moon, in the 

midst of the sky, has paused to listen to it As 

though enchanted, the hamlet dreams upon the heights. 
The mass of the cottages gleams still whiter, still more 

Seventh Period 157 

agreeably under the light of the moon ; still more dazzlingly 
do their lowly walls stand out against the darkness. The 
songs have ceased. Everything is still. Pious people are 
all asleep. Only here and there are the small windows 
still a-glow. In front of the threshold of a few cottages 
only is a belated family eating its late supper." 

Others of the tales are more exclusively national ; such 
as "The Lost Document," ' ' Sorotchinsky Fair," "The 
Enchanted Spot," and the like. But they display the 
same fertility of invention, combined with skill in manage- 
ment, and close study of every-day customs, superstitions, 
and life, all of which render them invaluable, both to Rus- 
sians and to foreigners. More important are such stories 
as "Old-fashioned Gentry," "The Cloak" (from the vol- 
ume of "St. Petersburg Tales"), wherein kindly wit is 
tempered with the purest, deepest pathos, while characters 
and customs are depicted with the greatest art and fidelity. 
"The Portrait," again, is semi-fantastic, although not 
legendary; and the "Diary of a Madman" is unexcelled 
as an amusing but affecting study of a diseased mind in 
the ranks of petty officialdom, where the tedious, insignifi- 
cant routine disperses what few wits the poor man was 
originally endowed with by nature. 

In Gogol's greatest work, "Dead Souls," all his quali- 
ties are developed to the highest degree, though there is 
less pathos than in some of the short stories. This must 
forever rank as a Russian classic. The types are as vivid, 
as faithful, for those who know the Russia of to-day, as 
when they were first introduced to an enthusiastic Russian 
public, in 1847. 

In the pre-emancipation days, a "soul" signified a male 
serf. Women were not taken account of in the periodical 

158 Russian Literature 

revisions; although the working unit, or tyagld, consisted 
of a man, his wife, and his horse— the indispensable trinity 
in agricultural labors. In the interval between revisions, 
a landed proprietor continued to pay taxes on all the male 
serfs accredited to him on the official list, births being 
considered as an exact offset to deaths, for the sake of 
convenience. Another provision of the law was, that no 
one should purchase serfs without the land to which they 
belonged, except for the purpose of colonization. An 
ingenious fraud, suggested by a combination of these two 
laws, forms the basis of plot for "Dead Souls." The 
hero, Tchitchikoff, is an official who has struggled up, 
cleverly but not too honestly, through the devious ways of 
bribe-taking, extortion, and not infrequent detection and 
disgrace, to a snug berth in the customs service, from 
which he has been ejected under conditions which render 
further upward flight quite out of the question. In this 
dilemma, he hits upon the idea of purchasing from landed 
proprietors of mediocre probity all their "souls" which 
are dead, though still nominally alive, and are taxed as 
such. Land is being given away gratuitously in the 
southern governments of Kherson and Tauris to any one 
who will settle on it. This is a matter of public knowl- 
edge, and Tchitchikoff' s plan consists in buying a thou- 
sand non-existent serfs — "dead souls" — at a maximum of 
one hundred rubles apiece, for colonization on an equally 
non-existent estate in the south. He will then mortgage 
them to the loan bank of the nobility, known as the Coun- 
cil of Guardians, and obtain a capital. In pursuance of 
this clever scheme, the adventurer sets out on his travels, 
visits provincial towns, and the estates of landed gentry 
of every shade of character, honesty, and financial stand- 

Seventh Period 159 

ing; and from them he buys for a song (or cajoles from 
them for nothing, as a gift, when they are a trifle scrupu- 
lous over the tempting prospect of illegal gain) huge num- 
bers of "dead souls." Pushkin himself could not have 
used with such tremendous effect the phenomenal oppor- 
tunities which this plot of Tchitchikoff's wanderings 
offered for setting forth Russian manners, characters, 
customs, all Russian life, in town and country, as Gogol 
did. The author even contrives, in keen asides and allu- 
sions, to throw almost equal light on the life of the capital 
as well. His portraits of women are not exactly failures; 
they are more like composite photographs. His portrait- 
ure of men is supreme. In fact, there is no such thing in 
the whole of Gogol's work as a heroine, properly speak- 
ing, who plays a first-class part, or who is analyzed in 
modern fashion. The day was not come for that as yet. 
"Taras Bulba," his great historical novel, offers a vivid 
picture of the famous kazak republic on the Dniepr, and 
equally with his other volumes, it stands in the first rank 
for its poetry, its dramatic force, its truth to life. It 
alone may be said to have a passionate love story. 


1. What special gift as a writer had Yazykoff? 

2. Give the chief events in the career of Griboyedoff. 

3. What was the character of Russian social life at this 

4. What was the plot of "Woe from Wit"? 

5. Describe the influence of Lermontoff. 

6. What is the story of his famous "Ballad of the Tzar, the 
Lifeguardsman, and the Merchant "? Supply full title. 

7. What was Schelling's philosophy, and how did it affect 
Russian thinkers? 

160 Russian Literature 

8. What important influence had Byelmsky? 

g. What marked powers of description had Aksakoff ? 

10. How does Koltzoffs life illustrate the widening influence 
of Russian literature? 

ii. How did the change from poetry to prose writing come 

12. Give an account of the chief events in the life of Gogol. 

13. How was the Russian tendency to mysticism illustrated 
in his case? 

14. Describe his famous play "The Inspector." What 
qualities does he show in this? 

15. What are the characteristics of his "Tales "? 

16. Why is "Dead Souls" regarded as his greatest work? 

17. What is the character of "Taras Bulba"? 


A Hero of To-Day. M. Y. Lermontoff. (Several transla- 

Works of Gogol: The Inspector. (Translated by Arthur 
Sykes.) Tards Bulba. (Translated by I. F. Hapgood.) 

Dead Souls, St. John's Eve, and Other Stories. (Selec- 
tions from the two volumes of Little Russian and St. Peters- 
burg Tales. Translated by I. F. Hapgood.) 



Under the direct influence of Byelinsky's criticism, and 
of the highly artistic types created by Gogol, a new gener- 
ation of Russian writers sprang up, as has already been 
stated — the writers of the '40's: Grigorovitch, Gontcha- 
roff, Turgeneff, Ostrovsky, Nekrasoff, Dostoevsky, Count 
L. N. Tolstoy, and many others. With several of these 
we can deal but briefly, for while they stand high in the 
esteem of Russians, they are not accessible in English 

Despite the numerous points which these writers of the 
'40' s possessed in common, and which bound them together 
in one "school," this community of interests did not pre- 
vent each one of them having his own definite individu- 
ality; his own conception of the world, ideals, character, 
and creative processes; his own literary physiognomy, so 
to speak, which did not in the least resemble the physiog- 
nomy of his fellow-writers, but presented a complete 
opposition to them in some respects. Perhaps the one 
who stands most conspicuously apart from the rest in this 
way is Ivan Alexandrovitch Gontcharoff (18 12-1890). 
He was the son of a wealthy landed proprietor in the 
southeastern government of Simbirsk, pictures of which 
district are reproduced in his most famous novel, "Oblo- 
moff." This made its appearance in 1858. No one who 


1 62 Russian Literature 

did not live in Russia at that time can fully comprehend 
what an overwhelming sensation it created. It was like a 
bomb projected into the midst of cultivated society at the 
moment when every one was profoundly affected by the 
agitation which preceded the emancipation of the serfs 
(1861), when the literature of the day was engaged in 
preaching a crusade against slumberous inactivity, inertia, 
and stagnation. The special point about Gontcharoff's 
contribution to this crusade against the order of things, 
and in favor of progress, was that no one could regard 
"Oblomoff" from the objective point of view. Every one 
was compelled to treat it subjectively, apply the type of 
the hero to his own case, and admit that in greater or less 
degree he possessed some of Oblomoff s characteristics. 
In this romance the gift of generalization reached its 
highest point. Oblomoff not only represented the type of 
the landed proprietor, as developed by the institution 
of serfdom, but the racial type, which comprised the traits 
common to Russians in general, without regard to their 
social rank, class, or vocation. In fact, so typical was 
this character that it furnished a new word to the 
language, "oblomovshtchina, " — the state of being like 
Oblomoff. Oblomoff carried the national indolence — 
"khaldtnost," or dressing-gown laziness, the Russians call 
it in general — to such a degree that he not only was unable 
to do anything, but he was not able even to enjoy himself. 
Added to this, he was afflicted with aristocratic enerva- 
tion of his faculties, unhealthy timidity, incapacity to take 
the smallest energetic effort, dove-like gentleness, and 
tenderness of soul, rendering him utterly incapable of 
defending his own interests or happiness in the slightest 
degree. And these characteristics were recognized as 

Seventh Period 163 

appertaining to Russians in general, even to those who 
had never owned serfs, and thus the type presented by 
Oblomoff may be said to be not only racial, but to a cer- 
tain extent universal — one of the immortal types, like Don 
Quixote, Don Juan, Hamlet, and the like. The chief 
female character in the book, Olga, can hardly be called 
the heroine; she appears too briefly for that. But she is 
admitted to be a fine portrait of the Russian woman as she 
was about to become, not as she then existed. Gontcha- 
roff's "An Every-day Story" is also celebrated; equally 
so is his "The Ravine," a very distressing picture of the 
unprincipled character of an anarchist. As the author 
changed his mind about the hero in part while writing the 
book, it is not convincing. 

Another of the men who made his mark at this time 
was Dmitry Vasilievitch Grigorovitch (born in 1 8 12), who 
wrote a number of brilliant books between 1 847-1 85 5. 
His chief merit is that he was the first to begin the diffi- 
cult study of the common people; the first who talked in 
literature about the peasants, their needs, their virtues, 
their helplessness, their misfortunes, and their sufferings. 
Of his early short stories, "Anton Goremyka" (wretched 
fellow) is the best. In it he is free from the reproach 
which was leveled at his later and more ambitious long 
stories, "The Emigrants" and "The Fishermen." In 
the latter, for the sake of lengthening the tale, and of 
enlisting interest by making it conform to the general 
taste of readers, he made the interest center on a love- 
story, in which the emotions and procedure were described 
as being like those in the higher walks of life; and this 
did not agree with the facts of the case. But the remainder 
of the stories are founded on a genuine study of peasant 

164 Russian Literature 

ways and feelings. Grigorovitch had originally devoted 
himself to painting, and after 1855 he returned to that 
profession, but between 1 884-1 898 he again began to 
publish stories. 

Among the writers who followed Grigorovitch in his 
studies of peasant life, was Ivan Sergyevitch Turgeneff 
(181 8- 1883), who may be said not only to have produced 
the most artistic pictures of that sphere ever written by a 
Russian, but to have summed up in his longer novels devoted 
to the higher classes, in a manner not to be surpassed, and 
in a language and style as polished and brilliant as a col- 
lection of precious stones — a whole obscure period of 
changes and unrest. He was descended from an ancient 
noble family, and his father served in a cuirassier regi- 
ment. On the family estate in the government of Orel * 
(where, later in life, he laid the scene of his famous 
"Notes of a Sportsman"), he was well provided with 
teachers of various nationalities — Russian excepted. One 
of his mother's serfs, a man passionately fond of reading, 
and a great admirer of Kheraskoff , was the first to initiate 
the boy into Russian literature, with "The Rossiad." In 
1834 Turgeneff entered the Moscow University, but soon 
went to St. Petersburg, and there completed his course in 
the philological department. Before he graduated, how- 
ever, he had begun to write, and even to publish his liter- 
ary efforts. After spending two years in Berlin, to finish 
his studies, he returned to Moscow, in 1 841, and there 
made acquaintance with the Slavyanophils — the Aksakoffs, 
Khomyakoff (a military man, chiefly known by his theo- 
logical writings), and others, the leaders of the new cult. 
But Turgeneff, thoroughly imbued with western ideas, did 

* Pronounced Aryol. 

Seventh Period 165 

not embrace it. He entered the government service, 
although there was no necessity for his so doing, but soon 
left it to devote himself entirely to literature, Byelinsky 
having written an enthusiastic article about a poem which 
Turgeneff had published under another name. But poetry 
was not Turgeneff' s strong point, any more than was the 
drama, though he wrote a number of plays later on, some 
of which have much merit, and are still acted occasionally. 
He found his true path in 1846, when the success of his 
first sketch from peasant life, "Khor and Kalinitch," 
encouraged him to follow it up with more of the same 
sort; the result being the famous collection "The Notes 
(or Diary) of a Sportsman." These, together with 
numerous other short stories, written between 1844-1850, 
won for him great and permanent literary fame. 

The special strength of the "school of the '40V ' con- 
sisted in its combining in one organic and harmonious 
whole several currents of literature which had hitherto 
flowed separately and suffered from one-sidedness. The 
two chief currents were, on the one hand, the objectivity 
of the Pushkin school, artistic contemplation of everything 
poetical in Russian life; and on the other hand, the nega- 
tively satirical current of naturalism, of the Gogol school, 
whose principal attention was directed to the imperfections 
of Russian life. To these were added, by the writers of 
the '40's, a social-moral movement, the fermentation of 
ideas, which is visible in the educated classes of Russian 
society in the '40's and '50's. As this movement was 
effected under the influence of the French literature of the 
'30's and '40's, of which Victor Hugo and Georges Sand 
were the leading exponents (whose ideas were expressed 
under the form of romanticism), these writers exercised 

1 66 Russian Literature 

the most influence on the Russian writers of the immedi- 
ately succeeding period. But it must be stated that their 
influence was purely intellectual and moral, and not in the 
least artistic in character. The influence of the French 
romanticists on the Russian writers of the '40 's consisted 
in the fact that the latter, imbued with the ideas of the 
former, engaged in the analysis of Russian life, which 
constitutes the strength and the merit of the Russian liter- 
ature of that epoch. 

Of all the Russian writers of that period, Turgeneff 
was indisputably the greatest. No one could have been 
more advantageously situated for the study of the mutual 
relations between landed proprietors and serfs. The 
Turgeneff family offered a very sharp type of old-fash- 
ioned landed-proprietor manners. Not one gentle or 
heartfelt trait softened the harshness of those manners, 
which were based wholly upon merciless despotism, and 
weighed oppressively not only upon the peasants, but 
upon the younger members of the family. Every one in 
the household was kept in a perennial tremor of alarm, 
and lived in hourly, momentary expectation of some sav- 
age punishment. Moreover, the author's father (who is 
depicted in the novel "First Love"), was much younger 
than his wife, whom he did not love, having married her 
for her money. His mother's portrait is to be found in 
"Punin and Baburin." Extremely unhappy in her child- 
hood and youth, when she got the chance at last she became 
a pitiless despot, greedy of power, and indulged the 
caprices and fantastic freaks suggested by her shattered 
nerves upon her family, the house-servants, and the serfs. 
It is but natural that from such an experience as this 
Turgeneff should have cherished, from the time of his 

Seventh Period 167 

miserable childhood (his disagreements with his mother 
later in life are matters of record also), impressions which 
made of him the irreconcilable foe of serfdom. In depict- 
ing, in his "Notes of a Sportsman," the tyranny of the 
landed gentry over their serfs, he could have drawn upon 
his personal experience and the touching tale "Mumii;" 
actually is the reproduction of an episode which occurred 
in his home. His "Notes of a Sportsman" constitutes a 
noteworthy historical monument of the period, not only 
as a work of the highest art, but also as a protest against 
serfdom. In a way these stories form a worthy continu- 
ation of Gogol's "Dead Souls." In them, as in all his 
other stories, at every step the reader encounters not only 
clear-cut portraits of persons, but those enchanting pic- 
tures of nature for which he is famous. 

The publication of his short sketches from peasant 
life in book form — "Notes of a Sportsman" — aroused 
great displeasure in official circles; officialdom looked 
askance upon Turgeneff because also of his long resi- 
dence abroad. Consequently, when, in 1852, he published 
in a Moscow newspaper a eulogistic article on Gogol 
(when the latter died), which had been prohibited by the 
censor in St. Petersburg, the authorities seized the oppor- 
tunity to punish him. He was arrested and condemned to 
a month in jail, which the daughter of the police-officer 
who had charge of him, contrived to convert into residence 
in their quarters, where Turgeneff wrote "Mumu"; and 
to residence on his estate, which he was not allowed to 
leave for about two years. In 1855 he went abroad, and 
thereafter he spent most of his time in Paris, Baden-Baden 
(later in Bougival), returning from time to time to his 
Russian estate. During this period his talent attained its 

1 68 Russian Literature 

zenith, and he wrote all the most noteworthy works which 
assured him fame: "Riidin," " Faust," "A Nest of 
Nobles," "On the Eve," and "First Love," which alone 
would have sufficed to immortalize him. In i860 he pub- 
lished an article entitled "Hamlet and Don Quixote," 
which throws a brilliant light upon the characters of all 
his types, and upon their inward springs of action. And 
at last, in 1862, came his famous "Fathers and Children." 
The key to the comprehension of his works is contained 
in his "Hamlet and Don Quixote." His idea is that in 
these two types are incarnated all the fundamental, con- 
trasting peculiarities of the human race — both poles of the 
axis upon which it revolves — and that all people belong, 
more or less, to one of these two types; that every one of 
us inclines to be either a Hamlet or a Don Quixote. "It 
is true," he adds, "that in our day the Hamlets have 
become far more numerous than the Don Quixotes, but 
the Don Quixotes have not died out, nevertheless." Such 
is his hero "Riidin," that central type of the men of the 
'40's — a man whose whole vocation consists in the dis- 
semination of enlightening ideas, but who, at the same 
time, exhibits the most complete incapacity in all his 
attempts to realize those ideas in practice, and scandalous 
pusillanimity when there is a question of any step which 
is, in the slightest degree, decisive — a man of the head 
alone, incapable of doing anything himself, because he has 
no nature, no blood. Such, again, is Lavretzky ("A Nest 
of Nobles"), that concentrated type, not only of the man 
from the best class of the landed gentry, but in general, 
of the educated Slavonic man — a man who is sympathetic 
in the highest degree, full of tenderness, of gentle human- 
ity and kindliness, but who, at the same time, does not 

Seventh Period 169 

contribute to life the smallest active principle, who pass- 
ively yields to circumstances, like a chip* borne on the 
stormy torrent. Such are the majority of Turgeneff's 
heroes, beginning with the hero of "Asya, " and ending 
with Sanin, in "Spring Floods," and Litvinoff, in 
"Smoke." Several Don Quixotes are to be found in his 
works, but not many, and they are of two sorts. One 
typically Russian category includes Andrei Kolosoff, and 
Yakoff Pasinkoff, Punin, and a few others; the second 
are Volyntzeff and Uvar Ivanovitch, in "On the Eve." 
A third type, invented by Turgeneff as an offset to the 
Hamlets, is represented by Insaroff in "On the Eve." 

With the publication, in 1862, of "Fathers and Chil- 
dren," a fateful crisis occurred in Turgeneff's career. In 
his memoirs and in his letters he insists that in the char- 
acter of Bazaroff he had no intention of writing a caricature 
on the young generation, and of bearing himself in a nega- 
tive manner towards it. "My entire novel," he writes, 
"is directed against the nobility as the leading class." 
Nevertheless, the book raised a tremendous storm. His 
mistake lay in not recognizing in the new type of men 
depicted under the character of Bazaroff enthusiasts 
endowed with all the merits and defects of people of that 
sort ; but on the contrary, they impressed him as skep- 
tics, rejecters of all conventions, and he christened them 
with the name of "nihilists," which was the cause of the 
whole uproar, as he himself admitted. But he declares that 
he employed the word not as a reproach, or with the aim of 
insulting, but merely as an accurate and rational expression 
of an historical fact, which had made its appearance. 

Turgeneff always regarded himself as a pupil of Push- 
kin, and a worthy pupil he was, but he worked out his 

170 Russian Literature 

own independent style, and in turn called forth a horde of 
imitators. It*may be said of Turgeneff, that he created 
the artistic Russian novel, carrying it to the pitch of per- 
fection in the matter of elegance, and finely proportioned 
exposition and arrangement of its parts — its architecture, 
so to speak — combined with artless simplicity and realism. 
The peculiarity of Turgeneff' s style consists in the remark- 
able softness and tenderness of its tones, combined with 
a certain mistiness of coloring, which recalls the air and 
sky of central Russia. Not a single harsh or coarse line 
is to be found in Turgeneff' s work; not a single glaring 
hue. The objects depicted do not immediately start forth 
before you, in full proportions, but are gradually depicted 
in a mass of small details with all the most delicate shades. 
Turgeneff is most renowned artistically for the landscapes 
which are scattered through his works, and principally 
portray the nature of his native locality, central Russia. 
Equally famous, and executed with no less mastery and 
art, are his portrayal and analysis of the various vicissi- 
tudes of the tender passion, and in this respect, he was 
regarded as a connoisseur of the feminine heart. A 
special epithet, "the bard of love," was often applied to 
him. Along with a series of masculine types, Turgeneff's 
works present a whole gallery of Russian women of the 
'50's and '6o's, portrayed in a matchless manner with the 
touch of absolute genius. And it is a fact worth noting 
that in his works, as in those of all the "authors of the 
'40's," the women stand immeasurably higher than the 
men. The heroines are frequently set forth in all their 
moral grandeur, as though with the express intention of 
overshadowing the insignificance of the heroes who are 
placed beside them. 

Seventh Period 171 

Towards the beginning of the '60's, the germs of pessi- 
mism began to make their appearance in Turgeneff's 
work, and its final expression came in "Poems in Prose." 
The source of this pessimism must be sought in his whole 
past, beginning with the impressions of his childhood, and 
the disintegrating influence of the reaction of the '50's, 
when the nation's hopes of various reforms seemed to 
have been blighted, and ending with a whole mass of expe- 
riences of life and the literary failures and annoyances 
which he underwent during the second half of his life. 
And in this connection it must not be forgotten that the 
very spirit of analysis and skepticism wherewith the school 
of writers of the '40's is imbued, leads straight to pessi- 
mism, like any other sort of skepticism. 

The following specimen, from "The Notes of a Sports- 
man," is selected chiefly for its comparative brevity: 
"The Wolf." 

I was driving from the chase one evening alone in a racing 
gig.* I was about eight versts from my house; my good mare 
was stepping briskly along the dusty road, snorting and twitch- 
ing her ears from time to time; my weary dog never quitted 
the hind wheels, as though he were tied there. A thunderstorm 
was coming on. In front of me a huge, purplish cloud was 
slowly rising from behind the forest; overhead, and advancing 
to meet me. floated long, gray clouds; the willows were rustling 
and whispering with apprehension. The stifling heat suddenly 
gave way to a damp chill; the shadows swiftly thickened. I 
slapped the reins on the horse's back, descended into a ravine, 
crossed a dry brook, all overgrown with scrub-willows, ascended 
the hill, and drove into the forest. The road in front of me 
wound along among thick clumps of hazel-bushes, and was 
already inundated with gloom; I advanced with difficulty. My 

*This vehicle, which is also the best adapted as a convenient runabout 
for rough driving in the country, consists merely of a board, attached, with- 
out a trace of springs, to two pairs of wheels, identical in size. 

172 Russian Literature 

gig jolted over the firm roots of the centenarian oaks and lindens, 
which incessantly intersected the long, deep ruts— the traces of 
cart-wheels; my horse began to stumble. A strong wind sud- 
denly began to drone up above, the trees grew turbulent, big 
drops of rain clattered sharply, and splashed on the leaves, the 
lightning and thunder burst forth, the ram poured in torrents. 
I drove at a foot-pace, and was speedily compelled to halt; my 
horse stuck fast. I could not see a single object. I sheltered 
myself after a fashion under a wide-spreading bush. Bent 
double, with my face wrapped up, I was patiently awaiting the 
end of the storm, when, suddenly, by the gleam of a lightning- 
flash, it seemed to me that I descried a tall figure on the road. 
I began to gaze attentively in that direction — the same figure 
sprang out of the earth as it were beside my gig. 

"Who is this?" asked a sonorous voice. 

"Who are you yourself?" 

" I 'm the forester here." 

I mentioned my name. 

"Ah, I know; you are on your way home?" 

"Yes. But you see what a storm— " 

"Yes, it is a thunderstorm," replied the voice. A white 
flash of lightning illuminated the forester from head to foot; a 
short, crashing peal of thunder resounded immediately after- 
wards. The rain poured down with redoubled force. 

" It will not pass over very soon," continued the forester. 

"What is to be done?" 

" I'll conduct you to my cottage if you like," he said, 

" Pray do." 

" Please take your seat." 

He stepped to the mare's head, took her by the bit, and 
turned her from the spot. We set out. I clung to the 
cushion of the drozhky, which rocked like a skiff at sea, 
and called the dog. My poor mare splashed her feet heavily 
through the mire, slipped, stumbled; the forester swayed from 
right to left in front of the shafts like a specter. Thus we 
proceeded for rather a long time. At last my guide came to a 
halt. " Here we are at home, master," he said, in a calm voice. 

Seventh Period 173 

A wicket gate squeaked, several puppies began to bark all 
together. I raised my head, and by the glare of the lightning, I 
descried a tiny hut, in the center of a spacious yard, surrounded 
with wattled hedge. From one tiny window a small light cast 
a dull gleam. The forester led the horse up to the porch, 
and knocked at the door. " Right away! right away!" resounded 
a shrill little voice, and the patter of bare feet became audible, 
the bolt screeched, and a little girl, about twelve years of age, 
clad in a miserable little chemise, girt about with a bit of list, 
and holding a lantern in her hand, made her appearance on 
the threshold. 

" Light the gentleman," he said to her: — "and I will put your 
carriage under the shed." 

The little lass glanced at me, and entered the cottage. I 
followed her. The forester's cottage consisted of one room, 
smoke-begrimed, low-ceiled and bare, without any sleeping- 
shelf over the oven, and without any partitions; a tattered 
sheepskin coat hung against the wall. On the wall-bench hung 
a single-barreled gun; in the corner lay scattered a heap of 
rags; two large pots stood beside the oven. A pine-knot was 
burning on the table, sputtering mournfully, and on the point 
of dying out. Exactly in the middle of the room hung a cra- 
dle, suspended from the end of a long pole. The little maid 
extinguished the lantern, seated herself on a tiny bench, and 
began to rock the cradle with her left hand, while with her 
right she put the pine-knot to rights. I looked about me, and 
my heart grew sad within me; it is not cheerful to enter a 
peasant's hut by night. The baby in the cradle was breathing 
heavily and rapidly. 

"Is it possible that thou art alone here?" I asked the little 

"Yes," she uttered, almost inaudibly. 

"Art thou the forester's daughter? " 

"Yes," she whispered. 

The door creaked, and the forester stepped across the 
threshold, bending his head as he did so. He picked up the 
lantern from the floor, went to the table, and ignited the 

174 Russian Literature 

" Probably you are not accustomed to a pine-knot," he said, 
as he shook his curls. 

I looked at him. Rarely has it been my fortune to behold 
such a fine, dashing fellow. He was tall of stature, broad, 
shouldered, and splendidly built. From beneath his dripping 
shirt, which was open on the bVeast, his mighty muscles stood 
prominently forth. A curly black beard covered half of his 
surly and manly face; from beneath his broad eyebrows, which 
met over his nose, small, brown eyes gazed bravely forth. He 
set his hands lightly on his hips, and stood before me. 

I thanked him, and asked his name. 

"My name is FomaV' he replied — "but my nickname is 
"The Wolf."* 

"Ah, are you The Wolf?" 

I gazed at him with redoubled curiosity. From my Ermoldi' 
and from others I had often heard about the forester, The 
Wolf, whom all the peasants round about feared like fire. Ac- 
cording to their statements, never before had there existed in 
the world such a master of his business. " He gives no one a 
chance to carry off trusses of brushwood, no matter what the 
hour may be; even at midnight, he drops down like snow on 
one's head, and you need not think of offering resistance — he's 
as strong and as crafty as the Devil And it's im- 
possible to catch him by any means; neither with liquor nor 
with money; he won't yield to any allurement. More than once 
good men have made preparations to put him out of the world, 
but no, he doesn't give them a chance." 

That was the way the neighboring peasants expressed them- 
selves about The Wolf. 

" So thou art The Wolf," I repeated. " I've heard of you, 
brother. They say that thou givest no quarter to any one." 

"I perform my duty," he replied, surlily; "it is not right to 
eat the master's bread for nothing." 

He pulled his axe from his girdle, sat down on the floor, and 
began to chop a pine-knot. 

" Hast thou no housewife?" I asked him. 

* In the government of Orel (pronounced Aryol) a solitary, surly man is 
called a ■wou.-biriuk. 

Seventh Period 175 

" No," he replied, and brandished his axe fiercely. 

"She is dead, apparently." 

" No — yes — she is dead," he added, and turned away. 

I said nothing; he raised his eyes and looked at me. 

" She ran away with a petty burgher who came along," he 
remarked, with a harsh smile. The little girl dropped her eyes ; 
the baby waked up and began to cry; the girl went to the 
cradle. " There, give it to him," said The Wolf, thrusting into 
her hand a soiled horn.* "And she abandoned him," he went 
on, in a low tone, pointing at the baby. He went to the door ( 
paused, and turned round. 

"Probably, master," he began, "you cannot eat our bread; 
and I have nothing but bread." 

" I am not hungry." 

"Well, suit yourself. I would boil the samovar for you. 
only I have no tea I'll go and see how your horse is." 

He went out and slammed the door. I surveyed my sur- 
roundings. The hut seemed to me more doleful than before, 
The bitter odor of chilled smoke oppressed my breathing. The 
little girl did not stir from her place, and did not raise her eyes, 
from time to time she gave the cradle a gentle shove, or timidly 
hitched up on her shoulder her chemise which had slipped 
down; her bare legs hung motionless. 

" What is thy name? " I asked. 

"Ulita," she said, drooping her sad little face still lower. 

The forester entered, and seated himself on the wall-bench. 

"The thunderstorm is passing over," he remarked, after a 
brief pause; "if you command, I will guide you out of the 

I rose. The Wolf picked up the gun, and inspected the 

"What is that for? " I inquired. 

"They are stealing in the forest. They're felling a tree at 
the Hare's Ravine," he added, in reply to my inquiring glance. 

" Can it be heard from here?" 

" It can from the yard." 

* For a nursing-bottle, the Russian peasants use a cow's horn, with a 
cow's teat tied over the tip. 

176 Russian Literature 

We went out together. The rain had ceased. Heavy masses 
of cloud were piled up in the distance, long streaks of light- 
ning flashed forth, from time to time; but over our heads, the 
dark blue sky was visible; here and there, little stars twinkled 
through the thin, swiftly flying clouds. The outlines of the 
trees, besprinkled with rain and fluttered by the wind, were 
beginning to stand out from the gloom. We began to listen. 
The forester took off his cap and dropped his eyes. " The — 
there," he said suddenly, and stretched out his arm; "you see 
what a night they have chosen." 

I heard nothing except the rustling of the leaves. The 
Wolf led my horse out from under the shed. " But I shall 
probably let them slip this way," he added aloud — " I'll go with 
you, shall I?"- — "All right," he replied, and backed the horse. 
"We'll catch him in a trice, and then I'll guide you out. 
Come on." 

We set out, The Wolf in advance, I behind him. God 
knows how he found the road, but he rarely halted, and then 
only to listen to the sound of the axe. " You see," he muttered 
between his teeth. " You hear? do you hear?" " But where?" 
The Wolf shrugged his shoulders. We decended into a ravine, 
the wind died down for an instant, measured blows clearly 
reached my ear. The Wolf glanced at me and shook his head. 
We went on, over the wet ferns and nettles. A dull, prolonged 
roar rang out 

" He has felled it," muttered The Wolf. 

In the meantime the sky had continued to clear; it was 
almost light in the forest. We made our way out of the ravine 
at last. " Wait here," the forester whispered to me, bent over, 
and raising his gun aloft, vanished among the bushes. I began 
to listen with strained intentness. Athwart the constant noise of 
the wind, I thought I discerned faint sounds not far away: an axe 
was cautiously chopping on branches, a horse was snorting. 

"Where art thou going? Halt!" the iron voice of The Wolf 
suddenly thundered out. Another voice cried out plaintively, 

like a hare A struggle began. "Thou li-iest. Thou 

li-iest," repeated The Wolf, panting; "thou shalt not escape." 
.... I dashed forward in the direction of the noise, and ran 

Seventh Period 177 

to the scene of battle, stumbling at every step. Beside the 
felled tree on the earth the forester was moving about: he held 
the thief beneath him, and was engaged in tying the man's 
hands benind his back with his girdle. I stepped up. The 
Wolf rose, and set him on his feet. I beheld a peasant, soaked, 
in rags, with a long, disheveled beard. A miserable little nag, 
half-covered with a small, stiff mat, stood hard by, with the 
running-gear of a cart. The forester uttered not a word; the 
peasant also maintained silence, and merely shook his head. 

" Let him go," I whispered in The Wolf's ear. " I will pay 
for the tree." 

The Wolf, without replying, grasped the horse's foretop 
with his left hand; with his right he held the thief by the belt. 
"Come, move on, simpleton!" he ejaculated surlily. 

" Take my axe yonder," muttered the peasant. " Why 
should it be wasted," said the forester, and picked up the axe. 

We started. I walked in the rear The rain began to 

drizzle again, and soon was pouring in torrents. With difficulty 
we made our way to the cottage. The Wolf turned the cap- 
tured nag loose in the yard, led the peasant into the house, 
loosened the knot of the girdle, and seated him in the corner. 
The little girl, who had almost fallen asleep by the oven, sprang 
up, and with dumb alarm began to stare at us. I seated myself 
on the wall-bench. 

" Ekh, what a downpour," remarked the forester. " We must 
wait until it stops. Wouldn't you like to lie down?" 


" I would lock him up in the lumber-room, on account of 
your grace," he went on, pointing to the peasant, "but, you 
see, the bolt " 

" Leave him there, don't touch him," I interrupted The 

The peasant cast a sidelong glance at me. I inwardly reg- 
istered a vow that I would save the poor fellow at any cost. 
He sat motionless on the wall-bench. By the light of the lan- 
tern I was able to scrutinize his dissipated, wrinkled face, his 

pendant, yellow eyebrows, his thin limbs The little girl 

lay down on the floor, at his very feet, and fell asleep again. 

i 7 8 

Russian Literature 

The Wolf sat by the table with his head propped on his hands. 

A grasshopper chirped in one corner The rain beat down 

upon the roof and dripped down the windows; we all main- 
tained silence. 

"Foma Kuzmitch," began the peasant suddenly, in a dull, 
cracked voice: "hey there, Foma' Kuzmitch!" 

" What do you want?" 

" Let me go." 

The Wolf made no reply. 

" Let me go ... . hunger drove me to it ... . let me go." 

"I know you," retorted the forester, grimly. "You're all 
alike in your village, a pack of thieves." 

" Let me go," repeated the peasant. " The head clerk 
.... we're ruined, that's what it is ... . let me go!" 

" Ruined! .... No one ought to steal!" 

" Let me go, Fomd Kuzmitch .... don't destroy me. Thy 
master, as thou knowest, will devour me, so he will." 

The Wolf turned aside. The peasant was twitching all 
over as though racked with fever. He kept shaking his head, 
and he breathed irregularly. 

" Let me go," he repeated with melancholy despair. " Let 
me go, for God's sake, let me go! I will pay, that I will, by 
God. By God, hunger drove me to it ... . the children are 
squalling, thou knowest thyself how it is. It's hard on a man, 
that it is." 

"All the same, don't go a-thieving." 

"My horse," continued the peasant, "there's my horse, 
take it if you choose .... it's my only beast .... let me go!" 

" Impossible, I tell thee. I also am a subordinate, I shall 
be held responsible. And it isn't right, either, to connive at 
thy deed." 

" Let me go! Poverty, Fomd. Kuzmitch, poverty, that's what 
it is ... . let me go!" 

" I know thee!" 

"But let me go!" 

" Eh, what's the use of arguing with you; sit still or I'll give 
it to you, don't you know? Don't you see the gentleman?" 

The poor fellow dropped his eyes The Wolf yawned, 

Seventh Period 179 

and laid his head on the table. The rain had not stopped. I 
waited to see what would happen. 

The peasant suddenly straightened himself up. His eyes 
began to blaze, and the color flew to his face. " Well, go ahead, 
devour! Go ahead, oppress! Go ahead," he began, screwing up 
his eyes, and dropping the corners of his lips, "go ahead, 
accursed murderer of the soul, drink Christian blood, drink!" 

The forester turned round. 

"I'm talking to thee, to thee, Asiatic blood-drinker, to 

" Art thou drunk, that thou hast taken it into thy head to 
curse!" said the forester with amazement. "Hast thou gone 

" Drunk! .... It wasn't on thy money, accursed soul- 
murderer, wild beast, beast, beast!" 

"Akh, thou .... I '11 give it to thee!" 

" What do I care? It's all one to me — I shall perish any- 
way; where can I go without a horse? Kill me — it comes to 
the same thing; whether with hunger or thus, it makes no 
difference. Deuce take them all: wife, children — let them all 
perish But just wait, thou shalt hear from us!" 

The Wolf half-rose to his feet. 

"Kill, kill — "the peasant began again in a savage voice; 

" Kill, go ahead, kill " (The little girl sprang up from 

the floor, and riveted her eyes on him.) " Kill, kill!" 

"Hold thy tongue!" thundered the forester, and advanced 
a couple of strides. 

" Enough, that will do, Foma," I shouted — " let him alone. 
.... Don't bother with him " 

"I won't hold my tongue," went on the unfortunate man. 
" It makes no difference how he murders me. Thou soul-mur- 
derer, thou wild beast, hanging is too good for thee But 

just wait. Thou hast not long to vaunt thyself! They'll 
strangle thy throat for thee. Just wait a bit!" 

The Wolf seized him by the shoulder I rushed to 

the rescue of the peasant. 

" Don't touch us, master!" the forester shouted at me. 

I did not fear his threats, and was on the point of stretching 

180 Russian Literature 

out my arm, but to my extreme amazement, with one twist, he 
tore the girdle from the peasant's elbow, seized him by the 
collar, banged his cap down over his eyes, flung open the door, 
and thrust him out. 

"Take thyself and thy horse off to the devil!" he shouted 
after him; "and see here, another time I'll ..... " 

He came back into the cottage, and began to rake over 
the ashes. 

" Well, Wolf," I said at last, " you have astonished me. I 
see that you are a splendid young fellow." 

" Ekh, stop that, master," he interrupted me, with vexation. 
" Only please don't tell about it. Now I 'd better show you your 
way," he added, "because you can't wait for the rain to stop." 

The wheels of the peasant's cart rumbled through the yard. 

"You see, he has dragged himself off," he muttered; "but 
I '11 give it to him! " 

Half an hour later he bade me farewell on the edge of 
the forest. 


1. At what critical period of Russian history was Gont- 
charoff's famous novel "Oblomoff" written? 

2. Why did it furnish a new word to the Russian language? 

3. What traits did this word represent? 

4. What was the peculiar merit of the short stories of 

5. What was the special strength of the "School of the 

6. Give an account of the life of Turgeneff. 

7. What did he try to show in " Hamlet and Don Quixote" ? 

8. What opposition arose to his "Fathers and Children"? 

9. What are the striking features of his style? 

10. What characteristics of this style are shown in " The 


The works of Turgeneff are easily accessible in several 
English translations. 



The new impulse imparted to all branches of literature 
in Russia during the '50's and the '6o's could not fail to 
find a reflection in the fortunes of the drama also. No- 
where is the spirit of the period more clearly set forth 
than in the history of the Russian theater, by the creation 
of an independent Russian stage. 

Russian comedy had existed from the days of Sumaro- 
koff, as we have seen, and had included such great names 
as Von Vizin, Griboyedoff, and Gogol. But great as 
were the works of these authors, they cannot be called its 
creators, in the true sense of the word, because their plays 
were like oases far apart, separated by great intervals of 
time, and left behind them no established school. Although 
Von Vizin's comedies contain much that is independent 
and original, they are fashioned after the models of the 
French stage, as is apparent at every step. "Woe from 
Wit" counts rather as a specimen of talented social satire 
than as a model comedy, and in its type, this comedy of 
Griboyedoff also bears the imprint of the French stage. 
Gogol's comedies, despite their great talent, left behind 
ihem no followers, and had no imitators. In the '30's and 
the '40's the repertory of the Russian theater consisted 
of plays which had nothing in common with "Woe from 
Wit," "The Inspector," or "Marriage," and the latter 


1 82 Russian Literature 

was rarely played. As a whole, the stage was given over 
to translations of sensational French melodramas and to 
patriotic tragedies. 

The man who changed all this and created Russian 
drama, Alexander Nikolaevitch Ostrovsky (i 823-1 886), 
was born in Moscow, the son of a poor lawyer, whose 
business lay with the merchant class of the Trans-Moscow 
River quarter, of the type which we meet with in Alex- 
ander Nikolaevitch's celebrated comedies. The future 
dramatist, who spent most of his life in Moscow, was 
most favorably placed to observe the varied characteristics 
of Russian life, and also Russian historical types; for 
Moscow, in the '30's and '40's of the nineteenth century, 
was the focus of all Russia, and contained within its walls 
all the historical and contemporary peculiarities of the 
nation. On leaving the University (where he did not 
finish the course), in 1843, Ostrovsky entered the civil 
service in the commercial court, where he enjoyed further 
opportunities of enlarging his observations on the life of 
the Trans-Moscow quarter. In 1847 he made his first 
appearance in literature, with " Scenes of Family Happi- 
ness in Moscow, ' ' which was printed in a Moscow news- 
paper. Soon afterwards he printed, in the same paper, 
several scenes from his comedy "Svoi liudi-sotchty- 
emsya, " which may be freely translated, "It's All in the 
Family: We'll Settle It Among Ourselves." This gained 
him more reputation, and he resigned from the service to 
devote himself entirely to literature, as proof-reader, 
writer of short articles, and so forth, earning a miserably 
small salary. When the comedy just mentioned was 
printed, in 1847, it bore the title of "The Bankrupt," and 
was renamed in deference to the objections of the censor. 

Seventh Period 183 

It made a tremendous commotion in Russian society, 
where it was read aloud almost daily, and one noted man 
remarked of it, "It was not written; it was born." But 
the Moscow merchants took umbrage at the play, made 
complaints in the proper quarter, and the author was 
placed under police supervision, while the newspapers 
were forbidden to mention the comedy. Naturally it was 
not acted. The following summary will not only indicate 
the reason therefor, and for the wrath of the merchants, 
but will also afford an idea of his style in the first comedy 
which was acted, his famous "Don't Seat Yourself in a 
Sledge Which is not Yours" ("Shoemaker, Stick to Your 
Last," is the English equivalent), produced in 1853, and 
in others: 

It's All in the Family: We'll Settle It Among 

Samson Silitch Bolshoff (Samson, son of Strong Big), a Mos- 
cow merchant, has a daughter, Olympiada, otherwise known as 

Lipotchka has been "highly educated," according to the 
ideas of the merchant class, considers herself a lady, and de- 
spises her parents and their "coarse" ways. This remarkable 
education consists in a smattering of the customary feminine 
accomplishments, especial value being attached to a knowl- 
edge of French, which is one mark of the gentry in Russia. 

Like all merchants' daughters who have been educated 
above their sphere, Lipotchka aspires to marry a noble, prefer- 
ably a military man. The play opens with a soliloquy by 
Lipotchka, who meditates upon the pleasures of the dance. 

"What an agreeable occupation these dances are! Just 
think how fine! What can be more entrancing? You enter 
an assembly, or some one's wedding, you sit down; naturally, 
you are all decked with flowers, you are dressed up like a doll, 
or like a picture in a paper ; suddenly a cavalier flies up, 
'Will you grant me the happiness, madam? ' Well, you see if 

184 Russian Literature 

he is a man with understanding, or an army officer, you half- 
close your eyes, and reply, • With pleasure! ' Ah! Cha-a-arm- 
ing! It is simply beyond comprehension! I no longer like to 
dance with students or shop-clerks. ' Tis quite another thing 
to distinguish yourself with military men! Ah, how delightful ! 
How enchanting! And their mustaches, and their epaulets, 
and their uniforms, and some even have spurs with bells. . . . 
I am amazed that so many women should sit with their feet 
tucked up under them. Really, it is not at all difficult to learn. 
Here am I, who was ashamed to take a teacher. I have learned 
everything, positively everything, in twenty lessons. Why 
should not one learn to dance? It is pure superstition! Here 
is mama, who used to get angry because the teacher was always 
clutching at my knees. That was because she is not cultured. 
Of what importance is it? He's only the dancing-master." 

Lipotchka proceeds to picture to herself that she receives a 
proposal from an officer, and that he thinks she is uneducated 
because she gets confused. She has not danced for a year and 
a half, and decides to practice a little. As she is dancing, 
her mother enters, and bids her to stop — dancing is a sin. 
Lipotchka refuses, and an acrimonious wrangle ensues between 
mother and daughter, about things in general. The mother 
reproaches Lipotchka for her ways, reminds her that her pa- 
rents have educated her, and so forth. To this Lipotchka re- 
torts that other people have taught her all she knows — and why 
have her parents refused that gentleman of good birth who 
has asked for her hand ? Is he not a Cupid ? (she pronounces 
it "Capid.") There is no living with them, and so forth. The 
female match-maker comes to inform them how she is progress- 
ing in her search for a proper match for Lipotchka, and the 
latter declares stoutly, that she will never marry a merchant. 
The match-maker, a famous figure in old Russia life, and irre- 
sistibly comic on the stage, habitually addresses her clients as, 
" my silver ones," "my golden ones," "my emerald ones," "my 
brilliant (or diamond) ones," which she pronounces "bralliant." 
Matters are nearly arranged for Lipotchka's marriage with a 
man of good birth. 

Old Bolshoff, however, is represented as being in a financial 

Seventh Period 185 

position where he can take his choice between paying all his 
debts and being thus left penniless but honest ; and paying his 
creditors nothing, or, at most, a quarter of their dues, and re- 
maining rich enough to indulge in the luxury of a noble son-in- 
law, the only motive on whose part for such a marriage being, 
naturally, the bride's dowry. 

Old Bolshoff decides to defraud his creditors, with the aid 
of a pettifogging lawyer, and he makes over all his property 
to his clerk, Podkhaliuzin. The latter has long sighed for 
Lipotchka, but his personal repulsiveness, added to his mer- 
chant rank, has prevented his ever daring to hint at such a 
thing. Now, however, he sees his chance. He promises the 
legal shyster a round sum if he will arrange matters securely 
in his favor. He bribes the match-maker to get rid of the 
noble suitor, and to bring about his marriage with Lipotchka, 
promising her, in case of success, two thousand rubles and a 
sable-lined cloak. 

Matters have gone so far that Lipotchka is gorgeously ar- 
rayed to receive her nobly born suitor, and accept him. Her 
mother is feasting her eyes on her adored child, in one of the 
intervals of her grumbling and bickering with her "ungrateful 
offspring," and warning the dear idol not to come in contact 
with the door, and crush her finery. But the match-maker 
announces that the man has beaten a retreat ; Lipotchka falls 
in a swoon. Her father declares that there is no occasion for 
that, as he has a suitable match at hand. He calls in Podkha- 
liuzin, whom Lipotchka despises, and presents him, command- 
ing his daughter to wed. Lipotchka flatly refuses. But after 
a private interview with the ambitious clerk, in which the latter 
informs her that she no longer possesses a dowry wherewith to 
attract a noble suitor, and in which he promises that she shall 
have the greatest liberty and be indulged in any degree of ex- 
travagance, she consents. 

The marriage takes place. But old Bolshoff has been put 
in prison by his enraged creditors, while the young couple have 
been fitting up a new house in gorgeous style on the old mer- 
chant's money. The pettifogging lawyer comes for his prom- 
ised reward. Podkhaliuzin cheats him out of it. The match- 

1 86 Russian Literature 

maker comes for her two thousand rubles and sable-lined cloak 
and gets one hundred rubles and a cheap gown. As these 
people depart cursing, old Bolshoff is brought in by his guard. 
He has come to entreat his wealthy son-in-law to pay the cred- 
itors twenty-five per cent and so release him from prison. 
Podkhaliuzin declares that this is impossible ; the old man has 
given him his instructions to pay only ten per cent, and really, 
he cannot afford to pay more. The old man's darling Lipotchka 
joins in and supports her husband's plea that they positively 
cannot afford more. The old man is taken back to prison, pre- 
liminary to being sent to Siberia as a fraudulent bankrupt. The 
young couple take the matter quite coolly until the policeman 
comes to carry off Podkhaliuzin to prison, for collusion. Even 
then the rascally ex-clerk does not lose his coolness, and when 
informed by the policeman— in answer to his question as to what 
is to become of him— that he will probably be sent to Siberia, 
"Well, if it is to be Siberia, Siberia let it be! What of that! 
People live in Siberia also. Evidently there is no escape. I 
am ready." 

Although "Shoemaker, Stick to Your Last," the central 
idea of which is that girls of the merchant class will be 
much happier if they marry in their own class than if they 
wed nobles, who take them solely for their money (the 
usual reason for such alliances, even at the present day), 
had an immense success, both in Moscow and in St. 
Petersburg, Ostrovsky received not a penny from it. In 
the latter city, also, the censor took a hand, because "the 
nobility was put to shame for the benefit of the merchant 
class," and the theater management was greatly agitated 
when the Emperor and all the imperial family came to the 
first performance. But the Emperor remarked, "There 
are very few plays which have given me so much pleasure; 
it is not a play, it is a lesson." 

"The Poor Bride" (written in 1852) was then put on 
the stage, and the author received a small payment on the 

Seventh Period 187 

spot. In 1854 "Poverty is not a Vice" appeared, and 
confirmed the author's standing as a writer of the first 
class. This play, a great favorite still, contains many 
presentations of old Russian customs. It was the first 
from which the author received a regular royalty, ranging 
from one-twentieth to two-thirds of the profits. 

After many more comedies, all more or less noted, all 
more or less objected to by the censor, for various rea- 
sons, and hostility and bad treatment on the part of the 
theatrical authorities, Ostrovsky attained the zenith of his 
literary fame with his masterpiece, "Groza" ("The 
Thunderstorm"). It was not until 1856, in his comedy 
"A Drunken Headache from Another Man's Banquet" 
(meaning, "to bear another's trouble"), that Ostrovsky 
invented the words which have passed into the language, 
sa7nodiir and samodiirstvo (which mean, literally, "self- 
fool" and "the state of being a self- fool"). The original 
"self- fool" is "Tit Tititch Bruskoff (provincially pro- 
nounced "Kit Kititch" in the play), but no better example 
of the pig-headed, obstinate, self-complacent, vociferous, 
intolerable tyrant which constitutes the "self-fool" can be 
desired than that offered in "The Thunderstorm" by 
Marfa Ignatievna Kabanoff, the rich merchant's widow. 
She rules her son, Tikhon, and his wife, Katerina, with a 
rod of iron. Her daughter, Varvara, gets along with her 
by consistent deceitfulness, and meets her lover, Kudry- 
ash, whenever she pleases. Tikhon goes off for a short 
time on business, and anxious to enjoy a little freedom, 
he persistently refuses to take his wife with him, despite 
her urgent entreaties. She makes the request because she 
feels that she is falling in love with Boris. 

After his departure, Varvara takes charge of her fate 

1 88 Russian Literature 

and persuades her to indulge her affection and to see 
Boris. Katerina eventually yields to Varvara's repre- 
sentations. A half -mad old lady, who wanders about 
attended by a couple of lackeys, has previously frightened 
the sensitive Katerina (who was reared amid family affec- 
tion, and cannot understand or endure the tyranny of her 
mother-in-law) by vague predictions and threats of hell; 
and when a thunderstorm suddenly breaks over the assem- 
bled family, after her husband's return, and the weird old 
lady again makes her appearance, Katerina is fairly crazed. 
She thinks the terrible punishment for her wayward affec- 
tions has arrived; she confesses to her husband and 
mother-in-law that she loves Boris. Spurned by the 
latter — though the husband is not inclined to attach over- 
much importance to what she says, in her startled con- 
dition — she rushes off and drowns herself. The savage 
mother-in-law, who is to blame for the entire tragedy, 
sternly commands her son not to mourn for his dead wife, 
whom he has loved in the feeble way which such a tyrant 
has permitted. This outline gives hardly an idea of the 
force of the play, and its value as a picture of Russian 
manners of the old school in general, and of the merchant 
class (who retained them long after they were much ameli- 
orated in other classes of society) in particular. 

But Ostrovsky did not confine his dramas within narrow 
limits. On the contrary, they present a wonderfully 
broad panorama of Russian life, and attain to a universal- 
ity which has been reached by no other Russian writer 
save Pushkin and Count L. N. Tolstoy. There are plays 
from prehistoric, mythical times, and historical plays, 
which deal with prominent epochs in the life of the nation. 
A great favorite, partly because of its pictures of old 

Seventh Period 189 

Russian customs, is "The Voevoda" or "The Dream on 
the Volga" (1865). "Vasilisa Melentieff" is popular for 
the same reasons (1868). Ostrovsky 's nervous organiza- 
tion was broken down by the incessant toil necessary to 
support his family, and these historical plays were written, 
with others, to relieve the pressure. His dramas were 
given all over Russia, and he received more money from 
private than from the government theaters. But towards 
the end of his life comfort came, and during the last year 
of his life he was in charge of the Moscow (government) 
Theater. At last he was master of the Russian stage, 
and established a school of dramatic art on the lines laid 
down by himself. But the toil was too great for his 
shattered health, and he died in 1886. His plays are 
wonderfully rich as a portrait-gallery of contemporary 
types, as well as of historical types, and the language of 
his characters is one of the most surprising features of his 
work. It is far too little to say of it that it is natural, 
and fits the characters presented: in nationality, in figura- 
tiveness, in keen, unfeigned humor and wit it represents 
the richest treasure of the Russian speech. Only three 
writers are worthy of being ranked together in this respect : 
Pushkin, Kryloff, and Ostrovsky. 

While, like all the writers of the '40's, Ostrovsky is 
the pupil of Gogol, he created his own school, and attained 
an independent position from his very first piece. His 
plays have only one thing in common with Gogol's — he 
draws his scenes from commonplace, every-day life in 
Russia, his characters are unimportant, every-day people. 
Gogol's comedies were such in the strict meaning of the 
word, and their object was to cast ridicule on the acting 
personages, to bring into prominence the absurd sides of 

190 Russian Literature 

their characters; and this aim accomplished, the heroes 
leave the stage without having undergone any change in 
their fates. With Ostrovsky's comedies it is entirely 
different. The author is not felt in them. The persons 
of the drama talk and act in defiance of him, so to speak, 
as they would talk and act in real life, and decided changes 
in their fate take place. But Ostrovsky accomplished far 
more than the creation of a Russian theater: he brought 
the stage to the highest pitch of ideal realism, and dis- 
carded all ancient traditions. The subjects of his plays 
are distinguished for their classic simplicity; life itself 
flows slowly across the stage, as though the author had 
demolished a wall and were exhibiting the actual life within 
the house. His plays, like life, break off short, after the 
climax, with some insignificant scene, generally between 
personages of secondary rank, and he tries to convince 
the audience that in life there are no beginnings, no end- 
ings; that there is no moment after which one would ven- 
ture to place a full period. Moreover, they are "plays of 
life" rather than either "comedies" or "tragedies," as he 
chanced to label them; they are purely presentations of 
life. In their scope they include almost every phase of 
Russian life, except peasant and country life, which he had 
no chance to study. 

For the sake of convenience we may group the other 
dramatic writers here. The conditions under which the 
Russian stage labored were so difficult that the best liter- 
ary talent was turned into other channels, and the very 
few plays which were fitted to vie with Ostrovsky's came 
from the pens of men whose chief work belonged to other 
branches of literature. Thus Ivan Sergyeevitch Turgeneff, 
who wrote more for the stage than other contemporary 

Seventh Period 191 

writers, and whose plays fill one volume of his collected 
works, distinguished himself far more in other lines. Yet 
several of these plays hold the first place after Ostrovsky's. 
"The Boarder" (1848), "Breakfast at the Marshal of 
NobilityV , (1849), "The Bachelor" (1849), "A Month 
in the Country" (1850), "The Woman from the Rural 
Districts" (185 1) are still acted and enjoyed by the 

Alexei Feofilaktovitch Pisemsky (best known for his 
"Thousand Souls" and his "Troubled Sea," romances of 
a depressing sort) contributed to the stage a play called 
"A Bitter Fate" (among others), wherein the Russian 
peasant appeared for the first time in natural guise with- 
out idealization or any decoration whatever. 

Count Alexei Konstantinovitch Tolstoy (1817-1875) 
wrote a famous trilogy of historical plays: "The Death 
of Ivan the Terrible" (1866), "Tzar Feodor Ivanovitch" 
(1868), and "Tzar Boris" (1870). The above are the 
dates of their publication. They appeared on the stage, 
the first in 1876, the other two in 1899, though they had 
been privately acted at the Hermitage Theater, in the 
Winter Palace, long before that date. They are fine 
reading plays, offering a profound study of history, but 
the epic element preponderates over the dramatic element, 
and the characters set forth their sentiments in extremely 
long monologues and conversations. There have been 
many other dramatic writers, but none of great distinction. 

Count A. K. Tolstoy stood at the head of the school 
of purely artistic poets who claimed that they alone were 
the faithful preservers of the Pushkin tradition. But in 
this they were mistaken. Pushkin drew his subjects from 

192 Russian Literature 

life; they shut themselves up in aesthetic contemplation of 
the beautiful forms of classical art of ancient and modern 
times, and isolated themselves from life in general. The 
result was, that they composed poetry of an abstract, artis- 
tically dainty, elegantly rhetorical sort, whose chief defect 
lay in its lack of individuality, and the utter absence of all 
colors, sounds, and motives by which Russian nationality 
and life are conveyed. The poetry of this school con- 
tains no sharply cut features of spiritual physiognomy. 
All of them flow together into a featureless mass of ele- 
gantly stereotyped forms and sounds. 

Count A. K. Tolstoy, who enjoyed all the advantages 
of education and travel abroad (where he made acquaint- 
ance with Goethe), began to scribble verses at the age of 
six, he says in his autobiography. Born in 1 81 7, he 
became Master of the Hounds at the imperial court in 
1857, and died in 1875. He made his literary debut in 
1842 with prose tales, and only in 1855 did he publish his 
lyric and epic verses in various newspapers. His best 
poetical efforts, beautiful as they are in external form, are 
characterless, and remind one of Zhiikovsky's, in that they 
were influenced by foreign or Russian poets — Lermontoff, 
for instance. But they have not a trace of genuine, 
unaffected feeling, of vivid, burning passion, of inspira- 
tion. His best work is his prose historical romance, 
"Prince Serebryany, " which gives a lively and faithful 
picture of Ivan the Terrible, his court, and life in his day. 
The dramas already mentioned are almost if not equally 
famous in Russia, though less known abroad. "Prince 
Serebryany, " and "War and Peace" by the former 
author's more illustrious cousin, Count L. N. Tolstoy, 
are the best historical novels in the Russian language. 

Seventh Period 193 

Another poet of this period was Apollon Nikolaeyitch 
Maikoff, born in 1 82 1, the son of a well-known painter. 
During his first period he gave himself up to classical, 
bloodless poems, of which one of the most noted is 
"Two Worlds, " which depicts the clash of heathendom 
and Christianity at the epoch of the fall of Rome. This 
poem he continued to write all his life; the prologue, 
"Three Deaths," begun in 1 84 1, was not finished until 
1872. To this period, also, belong "Two Judgments," 
"Sketches of Rome," "Anacreon, " "Alcibiades, " and so 
forth. His second and best period began in 1855, when 
he abandoned his cold classicism and wrote his best works : 
"Clermont Cathedral," "Savonarola," "Foolish Drinya," 
"The Last Heathens," "Polya," "The Little Picture," 
and a number of beautiful translations from Heine. 

Still another poet was Afanasy Afanasievitch Shenshin, 
who wrote under the name of Fet. Born in 1820, he began 
to write at the age of nineteen. About that time, on enter- 
ing the Moscow University, he experienced some difficulty 
in furnishing the requisite documents, whereupon he 
assumed the name of his mother during her first mar- 
riage — Fet. He reacquired his own name, Shenshin, in 
1875, by presenting the proper documents, whereupon an 
imperial order restored it to him. From 1844 to 1855 he 
served in the army, continuing to write poetry the while. 
Before his death, in 1892, he published numerous volumes 
of poems, translations from the classics, and so forth. 
Less talented than Count Alexei K. Tolstoy, Apollon Mai- 
koff, and other poets of that school, his name, in Russian 
criticism, has become a general appellation to designate a 
poet of pure art, for he was the most typical exponent of his 
school. Most of his poems are short, and present a pic- 

194 Russian Literature 

ture of nature, or of some delicate, fleeting psychical emo- 
tion, but they are all filled with enchanting, artistic charm. 
His poetry is the quintessence of aesthetic voluptuousness, 
such as was evolved on the soil of the sybaritism of the 
landed gentry in the circles of the '40 's of the nineteenth 

The oldest of all these worshipers of pure art was 
Feodor Ivanovitch TiutchefT (i 803-1873). At the age of 
seventeen he made a remarkably fine translation of some 
of Horace's works. He rose to very fine positions in the 
diplomatic service and at court. Although his first poems 
were printed in 1826, he was not widely known until 
1850-1854. His scope is not large, and he is rather weari- 
some in his faultless poems. The majority of them are 
rather difficult reading. 

A poet who did not wholly belong to this school, but 
wrote in many styles, was Yakoff Petrovitch Polonsky 
(1 820-1 898).* Under different conditions he might have 
developed fire and originality, both in his poems and his 
prose romances. His best known poem is "The Grass- 
hopper-Musician" (1863). He derived his inspiration 
from various foreign poets, and also from many of his 
fellow-countrymen. Among others, those in the spirit of 
Koltzoff's national ballads are not only full of poetry and 
inspiration, art and artless simplicity, but some of them 
have been set to music, have made their way to the popu- 
lace, and are sung all over Russia. Others, like "The 
Sun and the Moon" and "The Baby's Death" are to be 
found in every Russian literary compendium, and every 
child knows them by heart. 

*I had the pleasure of knowing Polonsky and his wife, a gifted sculptress. 
He was a great favorite in society, for his charming personality, as well as 
for his poetry. He served on the Committee of Foreign Censure. 

Seventh Period 195 

But while the poetry of this period could not boast of 
any such great figures as the preceding period, it had, 
nevertheless, another camp besides that of the "pure art" 
advocates whom we have just noticed. At the head of 
the second group, which clung to the aesthetic doctrine 
that regarded every-day life as the best source of inspira- 
tion and contained several very talented expositors, stood 
Nikolai Alexyeevitch Nekrasoff (1821-1877). Nekrasoff 
belonged to an impoverished noble family, which had once 
been very wealthy, and was still sufficiently well off to 
have educated him in comfort. But when his father sent 
him to St. Petersburg to enter a military school he was 
persuaded to abandon that career and take a course at the 
University. His father was so enraged at this step that 
he cast him off, and the lad of sixteen found himself 
thrown upon his own resources. He nearly starved to 
death and underwent such hardships that his health was 
injured for life, but he did not manage to complete the 
University course. These very hardships contributed 
greatly, no doubt, to the power of his poetry later on, 
even though they exerted a hardening effect upon his 
character, and aroused in him the firm resolve to acquire 
wealth at any cost. Successful as his journalistic enter- 
prises were in later life, it is known that he could not have 
assured himself the comfortable fortune he enjoyed from 
that source alone, and he is said to have won most of it at 
the gambling-table. This fact and various other circum- 
stances may have exercised some influence upon the judg- 
ment of a section of the public as to his literary work. 
There is hardly any other Russian writer over whose 
merits such heated discussions take place as over Nekra- 
soff, one party maintaining that he was a true poet, with 

196 Russian Literature 

genuine inspiration; the other, that he was as clever with 
his poetry in a business sense, as he was with financial 
operations, and that he possessed no feeling, inspiration, 
or poetry.* The truth would seem to lie between these 
two extremes. Like all the other writers of his day — like 
writers in general — he was unconsciously impressed by 
the spirit of the time, and changed his subjects and treat- 
ment as it changed; and like every other writer, some 
of his works are superior in feeling and truth to others. 
The most important period of his life was that from 
1 84 1 to 1845, when his talent was forming and ripening. 
Little is known with defmiteness regarding this period, 
but it is certain that while pursuing his literary labors, he 
moved in widely differing circles of society — fashionable, 
official, literary, theatrical, that of the students, and others 
— which contributed to the truth of his pictures from these 
different spheres in his poems. In 1847 ne was a ble (in 
company with Panaeff) to buy "The Contemporary," of 
which, eventually, he became the sole proprietor and 
editor, and with which his name is indelibly connected. 
When this journal was dropped, in 1866, he became the 
head, in 1868, of "The Annals of the Fatherland," where 
he remained until his death. It was during these last ten 
years of his life that he wrote his famous poems, "Rus- 
sian Women" and "Who in Russia Finds Life Good," 

*I permit myself to quote from my "Russian Rambles" Count L. N. 
Tolstoy's opinion, in which he succinctly expressed to me the view of this 
second party: "There are three requisites which go to make a perfect 
writer. First, he must have something worth saying. Second, he must have 
a proper way of saying it. Third, he must have sincerity. Dickens had all 
three of these qualities. Thackeray had not much to say : he had a great 
deal of art in saying it, but he had not enough sincerity. Dostoevsky pos- 
sessed all three requisites. Nekrasoff knew well how to express himself, but 
he did not possess the first quality; he forced himself to say something— 
whateverwould catch the public at the moment, of which he was a very keen 
judge, as he wrote to suit the popular taste, believing not at all in what he 
said. He had none of the third requisite." 

Seventh Period 197 

with others of his best poems. He never lost his adora- 
tion of the critic Byelinsky, to whom he attributed his own 
success, as the result of judicious development of his 

One of the many conflicting opinions concerning him 
is, that he is merely a satirist, "The Russian Juvenal," 
which opinion is founded on his contributions to "The 
Whistle," a publication added, as a supplement, to "The 
Contemporary," about 1857. Yet his satirical verses 
form but an insignificant part of his writings. And 
although there does exist a certain monotony of gloomy 
depression in the tone of all his writings, yet they are so 
varied in form and contents that it is impossible to classify 
them under any one heading without resorting to undue 
violence. He is not the poet of any one class of society, 
of any one party or circle, but expresses in his poetry the 
thoughts of a whole cycle of his native land, the tears of 
all his contemporaries and fellow-countrymen. This 
apparently would be set down to the credit of any other 
man, and regarded as a proof that he kept in intimate touch 
with the spirit and deepest sentiments of his time, instead 
of being reckoned a reproach, and a proof of commercial- 
ism. Moreover, he wrote things which were entirely 
peculiar to himself, unknown hitherto, and which had 
nothing in common with the purely reflective lyricism of 
the '40's of the nineteenth century. These serve to com- 
plete his significance as the universal bard of his people 
and his age, to which he is already entitled by his cele- 
bration of all ranks and elements of society, whose fermen- 
tation constitutes the actual essence of that period. 

There is one point to be noted about Nekrasoff which 
was somewhat neglected by the critics during his lifetime. 

198 Russian Literature 

No other Russian poet of that day was so fond of calling 
attention to the bright sides of the national life, or depicted 
so many positive, ideal, brilliant types with such fervent, 
purely Schilleresque, enthusiasm as Nekrasoff . And most 
significant of all, his positive types are not of an abstract, 
fantastic character, clothed in flesh and blood of the period 
and environment, filled with conflicting, concrete character- 
istics — not one of them resembles any other. He sought 
and found them in all classes of society; in " Russian 
Women" he depicts the devoted princesses in the highest 
circle of the social hierarchy, with absolute truth, as faith- 
ful representatives of Russian life and Russian aristocrats, 
capable of abandoning their life of ease and pleasure, and 
with heroism worthy of the ancient classic heroines, accom- 
panying their exiled husbands to Siberia, and there cheer- 
fully sharing their hardships. His pictures of peasant life 
are equally fine; that in "Red-Nosed Frost" (the Russian 
equivalent of Jack Frost) is particularly famous, and 
the peasant heroine, in her lowly sphere, yields nothing in 
grandeur to the ladies of the court. 

The theme of "Red-Nosed Frost" may be briefly stated 
in a couple of its verses, in the original meter: 

There are women in Russian hamlets 

With a dignified calmness of face; 
With a beautiful strength in their movements, 

With mien and glance of an empress in grace. 

A blind man alone could ignore them; 

And he who can see them must say: 
"She passes — 'tis as though the sun shineth! 

She looks — 'tis giving rubles away! " 

A noble-minded, splendid peasant woman, who has 
worthily fulfilled all the duties of her hard lot, at last 

Seventh Period 199 

becomes a widow. The manner of it; the quaint folk- 
remedies employed to heal the sick man; the making of 
the shroud by the bereaved wife; the digging of his grave 
by his father; the funeral; all are described. The widow 
drives the sledge with the coffin to the grave. On her 
return home she finds that the fire is out and that there is 
no wood on hand. Intrusting her two children to the 
care of a neighbor, she drives off with the sledge to the 
forest to cut some. As she collects the fuel, her thoughts 
wander back over the past, and she sees a vision of her 
life, its joys and sorrows. Just as she is about to set out 
for home, she pauses, approaches a tall pine-tree with her 
axe, and there Jack Frost woos and wins her, and she 
remains, frozen stiff. The beauty and interest of the 
poem quite escape in this (necessarily) bald summary. 
The same is the case with "Russian Women." The first 
poem of this is entitled "Princess Trubetzkoy." It 
begins by narrating how the "Count-father" prepares the 
covered traveling sledge for the Princess, who is bent 
upon the long journey to Siberia, to join her husband, one 
of the "Decembrists," exiled for participation in the 
tumults of 1825, on the accession to the throne of Nicho- 
las I. He spreads a thick bear-skin rug, puts in down- 
pillows, hangs up a holy image {ikona) in the corner, 
grieving the while. After this prologue, the journey of 
the devoted wife is described; the monotonous way being 
spent in great part by the noble woman in vision-like 
memories of her happy childhood, girlhood, and married 
life. On arriving at Irkutsk she receives a visit from the 
governor, an old subordinate of her father, who endeavors 
by every possible means to deter her from pursuing her jour- 
ney. She persists in demanding that fresh horses be put 

200 Russian Literature 

to her sledge, and that she be allowed to proceed to the 
Nertchinsk mines, where her husband is. Failing to 
frighten her by the description of the hardships she will 
be compelled to -endure, by telling her that she will have to 
live in the common ward of the prison with hundreds of 
prisoners, never see her husband alone, and the like, he 
at last informs her that she can proceed only on condition 
that she renounces all her rights, title, property. She 
demands the document on the instant and signs it, and 
again demands her horses. The governor (who, by plead- 
ing illness, has already detained the impatient woman a 
whole week) then tells her that, having renounced her 
rights, she must traverse the remaining eight hundred 
versts * on foot, like a common prisoner, and that the 
majority fall by the way in so doing. Her only thought 
is the extra time which this will require. The governor, 
having done his duty, tells her that she shall have her 
horses and sledge as before; he will assume the responsi- 
bility. She proceeds. Here the poem ends. But the 
second poem, entitled "Princess Volkonsky, " and dated 
1 82 6- 1 82 7 carries the story further for both women. 
It takes the form of a tale told to her grandchildren, 
to whom says the Princess Volkonsky, she will be- 
queath flowers from her sister Muravieff's grave (in 
Siberia), a collection of butterflies, the flora of Tchita, 
views of that savage country, and an iron bracelet forged 
by their grandfather from his chains. She narrates how, 
at the age of seventeen, she married the Prince, a friend 
of her father, and the hero of many campaigns, much older 
than herself, who even after the wedding, is absent the 
greater part of the time on his military duties. Once, 

* A verst is about two-thirds of a mile. 

Seventh Period 201 

when they meet again after one of these prolonged sepa- 
rations, he is suddenly seized with panic, burns many 
documents in her presence, and takes her home to her 
father without, however, explaining anything. After that 
she hears nothing about him for many months; no letters 
reach her, every one professes ignorance as to his where- 
abouts, but assures her he is engaged in his duties. Even 
when her son is born he makes no sign, and all further 
efforts to pacify her prove useless. She goes to St. 
Petersburg, finds out the truth, and insists on joining her 
husband who, with Prince Trubetzkoy and the other noble 
Decembrists, is in Siberia. Every effort on the part of 
friends and relatives to prevent her leaving her baby and 
taking this step prove of no avail. She obtains the 
Emperor's permission, and sets out. The description of 
her journey is even more graphic and touching than that 
of Princess Trubetzkoy 's. She hears on the way about the 
efforts which have been made to turn the latter from her 
purpose, and that probably the same measures will be 
used with her. At one point she meets the caravan which 
is bringing the silver from the Nertchinsk mines to the 
capital, and she asks the young officer in charge if the 
exiles are alive and well. He replies insultingly that he 
knows nothing about such people. But one of the peas- 
ant-soldiers of the caravan quietly gives her the desired 
information, and she adds, that invariably throughout her 
long and trying experience the peasant men have been 
truly sympathetic, helpful, and kind to the last degree, 
when their superiors were not. Efforts to turn her aside 
fail. She overtakes Princess Trubetzkoy, and the two 
friends pursue their sad journey together. On arriving in 
Nertchinsk, the commandant questions their right to see 

202 Russian Literature 

their husbands, refuses to recognize the Emperor's own 
signature, says he will send to Irkutsk for information 
(they had offered to go back themselves for it), and until 
it is received, they will not be permitted to hold communi- 
cation with those whom they have come so far to see. 
The women resign themselves, and pass the night in a 
peasant hut, so small that their heads touch the wall, their 
feet the door. Princess Volkonsky, waking early, sets 
out on a stroll through the village, and comes to the mouth 
of the mine-shaft, guarded by a sentry. She prevails 
upon this sentry to let her descend, contrary to orders, 
and after a long and arduous passage through the rough, 
dripping corridors, and after running the risk of discovery 
by an official, and even of death (when she extinguishes 
her torch to escape the official, and proceeds in the dark), 
she reaches her husband and the other Decembrist exiles, 
and delivers to them the letters from their friends, which 
she has with her. The poem is most beautiful and 

A third very famous poem is "Who in Russia Finds 
Life Good?" Seven peasants meet by chance on the 
highway, and fall into a dispute on that theme. One 
says, "the landed proprietor"; another, "the official"; a 
third, "the priest." Others say, respectively, "the fat- 
bellied merchant," "the minister of the empire," "the 
Tzar." All of the peasants had started out at midday 
upon important errands, but they argue hotly until sun- 
down, walking all the while, and do not notice even that 
until an old woman happens along and asks them, "Where 
are they bound by night?" On glancing about them, the 
peasants perceive that they are thirty versts from home, 
and they are too fatigued to undertake the return journey 

Seventh Period 203 

at once. They throw the blame on the Forest-Fiend, 
seat themselves in the woods, and light a fire. One man 
goes off to procure liquor, another for food, and as they 
consume these, they begin the discussion all over again in 
such vehement wise that all the beasts and birds of the 
forest are affrighted. At last Pakhom, one of the peas- 
ants, catches a young bird in his hand and says that, frail 
and tiny as it is, it is more mighty than a peasant man, 
because its wings permit it to fly whithersoever it wishes; 
and he beseeches the birdling to give them its wings, so 
that they may fly all over the empire and observe and 
inquire, "Who dwelleth happily and at ease in Russia?" 
Surely, Ivan remarks, wings are not needed; if only 
they could be sure of half a pud (eighteen pounds) of 
bread a day (meaning the sour, black rye bread), they 
could "measure off Mother Russia" with their own legs. 
Another of the peasants stipulates for a vedro (two and 
three-quarters gallons) of vodka; another for cucumbers 
every morning; another for a wooden can of kvas (small 
beer, brewed from the rye bread, or meal) every noon; 
another for a teapot of boiling tea every evening. A 
peewit circles above them in the air, listening, then alights 
beside their bonfire, chirps, and addresses them in human 
speech. She promises that if they will release her off- 
spring she will give them all they desire. The compact 
is made; she tells them where to go in the forest and dig 
up a coffer containing a "self-setting table-cloth," which 
will carry them all over the country at their behest. They 
demand, in addition, that they shall be fed and clothed; 
granted. They get the carpet; their daily supply of food 
appears from its folds, on demand (they may double, but 
not treble the allowance), and they vow not to return to 

204 Russian Literature 

their families until they shall have succeeded in their quest 
of a happy man in Russia. Their first encounter is with 
a priest, who in response to their questions, asks if happi- 
ness does not consist in "peace, wealth, and honor?" He 
then describes his life, and demonstrates that a priest gets 
none of these things. As they proceed on their way, they 
meet and interrogate people from all ranks and classes. 
This affords the poet an opportunity for a series of pic- 
tures from Russian life, replete with national characteris- 
tics, stories, arguments, songs, described in varying meters. 
The whole forms a splendid and profoundly interesting 
national picture-gallery. 

The movements of the '40's and the '6o's brought to 
the front several poets who sprang directly from the 
people. On the borderland of the two epochs stands the 
most renowned of Little Russian poets, Taras Grigorie- 
vitch Shevtchenko (1814-1861). He was the contempo- 
rary of Koltzoff and Byelinsky, rather than of Nekrasoff ; 
nevertheless, he may be regarded as a representative of 
the latter's epoch, in virtue of the contents and the spirit 
of his poetry. 

His history is both interesting and remarkable. He 
was the son of a serf, in the government of Kieff. When 
he was eight years old his mother died, and his father 
married again. His stepmother favored her own chil- 
dren, and to constant quarrels between the two broods, 
incessant altercation between the parents was added. At 
the age of eleven, when his father died, he began a roving 
life. He ran away from a couple of ecclesiastics who had 
undertaken to teach him to read and write (after having 
acquired the rudiments of those arts), and made numerous 
ineffectual attempts to obtain instruction in painting from 

Seventh Period 205 

various wretched daubers of holy pictures, having been 
addicted, from his earliest childhood, to scrawling over 
the walls of the house and the fences with charcoal draw- 
ings. He was obliged to turn shepherd. In 1827 he was 
taken on as one of his master's household servants, and 
sent to Vilna, where at first he served as scullion. 
Later on, it was decided that he "was fitted to become 
the household painter." 

But he served at first as personal attendant on his 
master and handed him a light for his pipe, until his mas- 
ter caught him one night drawing a likeness of Kazak 
Platoff, whereupon he pulled Shevtchenko's ears, cuffed 
him, ordered him to be flogged, but simultaneously acquired 
the conviction that the lad might be converted into a 
painter to the establishment. So Shevtchenko began to 
study under a Vilna artist, and a year and a half later, by 
the advice of his teacher, who recognized his talent, the 
master sent the lad to a portrait-painter in Warsaw. In 
1 83 1 he was sent to his master in St. Petersburg on foot 
by the regular police "stages" (etafie), arriving almost 
shoeless, and acted as lackey in the establishment. At 
last his master granted his urgent request, and apprenticed 
him for four years to an instructor in painting. Here 
Shevtchenko made acquaintance with the artist I. M. 
Soshenko, and through him with an author of some little 
note, who took pity on the young fellow's sorry plight, and 
began to invite him to his house, give him books to read, 
furnish him with various useful suggestions, and with 
money. Thus did Shevtchenko come to know the Rus- 
sian and western classical authors, history, and so forth. 
Through Soshenko 's agency, the aid of the secretary of 
the Academy of Arts was invoked to rescue the young 

106 Russian Literature 

man from his artist master's intolerable oppression, and 
his literary friend introduced Shevtchenko to Zhukovsky, 
who took an ardent interest in the fate of the talented 
young fellow. They speedily began operations to free 
Shevtchenko from serfdom; and the manner in which it 
was finally affected is curious. A certain general ordered 
a portrait of himself from Shevtchenko for which he was 
to pay fifty rubles. The general was not pleased with 
the portrait, and refused to accept it. The offended artist 
painted the general's beard over with a froth of shaving- 
soap, and sold the picture for a song to the barber who 
was in the habit of shaving the general, and he used it as 
a sign. The general flew into a rage, immediately pur- 
chased the portrait, and with a view to revenging him- 
self on the artist, he offered the latter's master a huge 
sum for him. Shevtchenko was so panic-stricken at the 
prospect of what awaited him, that he fled for aid to the 
artist Briuloff, entreating the latter to save him. Briuloff 
told Zhukovsky, and Zhukovsky repeated the story to 
the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, wife of Nicholas I. 
Shevtchenko 's master was ordered to stop the sale. The 
Empress then commanded Briuloff to complete a portrait 
of her which he had begun, and she put it up as the 
prize in a lottery among the members of the imperial 
family for the sum of ten thousand rubles — the price 
offered for Shevtchenko by the enraged general. Shevt- 
chenko thus received his freedom in May, 1838, and 
immediately began to attend the classes in the Academy 
of Arts, and speedily became one of Briuloff' s favorite 
pupils and comrades. 

In 1840 he published his "Kobzar" * which made an 

*The player on the Little Russian twelve-stringed guitar, the Kobza, 
literally translated. 

Seventh Period 207 

impression in Little Russia. In 1842 he began the publi- 
cation of his famous poem, "The Haidamak" (A Warrior 
of Ancient Ukraina). In 1843 ne was arrested and sent 
back to Little Russia, where he lived until 1847, and 
during this period his talent bore its fairest blossoms, and 
his best works appeared: "The Banquet of the Dead," 
"The Hired Woman/' "The Dream," "The Prisoner," 
"Ivan Gus" (the goose), "The Cold Hillside," and so 
forth. His literary fame reached its zenith, and brought 
with it the friendship of the best intellectual forces of 
southern Russia, and with the aid of Princess Ryepnin 
(cousin to the minister of public education) and Count 
Uvaroff, he obtained the post of drawing-master in Kieff 
University. But in 1847 some one overheard and distorted 
a conversation in which Shevtchenko and several friends 
had taken part, the result being that all were arrested, 
while Shevtchenko, after being taken to St. Petersburg, 
was sent to the Orenburg government in the far southeast, 
to serve as a common soldier in the ranks, and was for- 
bidden to paint or to write. There he remained for ten 
years, when he returned to the capital, and settled down 
at the Academy of Arts, where he was granted a studio, in 
accordance with his right as an academician. He never 
produced anything of note in the literary line thereafter, 
and the last three years of his life were chiefly devoted to 
releasing his relatives from serfdom, and furnishing them 
with land for cottages, which object he accomplished a few 
months before the general emancipation of the serfs. 

In the work of Shevtchenko it is possible to follow the 
curious transformation from what may be called the col- 
lective-folk creative power, to the purely individual. His 
figures, subjects, and the quiet, heart-rending sadness of 

208 Russian Literature 

his poems are precisely the same as those to be met with 
in any Little Russian folk-ballad. The majority of his 
poems are not inventions, but are taken directly from 
popular legends and traditions, and the personality of the 
poet vanishes in a flood of purely popular poetry. Never- 
theless, he is not a slavish copyist of this folk-poetry. 
The language of his compositions is strikingly simple, and 
comprehensible not only to native-born Little Russians, 
but also to those who are not acquainted with the dialect 
of that region. Most writers who have employed the 
Little Russian dialect are difficult of comprehension not 
only to educated Great Russians, but also to ordinary 
Little Russians, because their language is artificial, inter- 
mingled with a mass of new words and expressions 
invented in educated circles of Little Russia. But 
Shevtchenko wrote in the living tongue of the Ukraina, in 
which its people talk and sing. His best work, after he 
came under the influence of Zhukovsky, is "The Hired 
Woman." This is the story of a girl who is betrayed, 
then forced by outsiders to abandon her child, after 
which she hires herself out as servant to the people at 
whose door she has left the child, and so is enabled to 
rear it, only revealing the secret to her child on her death- 

The sufferings of the people in serfdom form the sub- 
ject of another series of his poems, and in this category, 
"Katerina" is the best worked out and most dramatic of 
his productions. A third category comprises the historical 
ballads, in which he celebrates the days of kazak freedom. 
This class comprises two long poems, "The Hai'damak" 
(The Kazak Warrior of Ancient Ukraina) and "Gamaliya, " 
besides a number of short rhapsodies. In these poems 

Seventh Period 209 

the writer has expressed his political and social views, and 
they are particularly prized by his fellow-landsmen of the 
Ukraina. The fourth (or, in the order of their appearance, 
the first) class of Shevtchenko's poems consists of ballads 
in the folk-style, and sentimental, romantic pieces, which 
have no political or social tendencies. Such are the bal- 
lads, "The Cause," "The Drowned Woman," "The 
Water Nymph," "The Poplar Tree," which he wrote in 
St. Petersburg on scraps of paper in the summer garden. 

Of less talent and importance was a fellow-citizen of 
Koltzoff, Ivan Savitch Nikitin (1824-1861). Perhaps the 
most interesting thing about him is that Count L. N. 
Tolstoy took a lively interest in this gifted plebeian, and 
offered to bear the cost of publishing his poems, regarding 
him as a new Koltzoff. Count Tolstoy has since arrived 
at the conclusion that all poetry is futile and an unneces- 
sary waste of time, as the same ideas can be much better 
expressed in prose, and with less labor to both writer and 

The poet from the educated classes of society who 
deserves the most attention as a member of Nekrasoff's 
camp, is Alexyei Nikolaevitch Pleshtcheeff (182 5-1 893), 
the descendant of an ancient family of the nobility. In 
1849 ne was arrested for suspected implication in what is 
known as "The Petrashevsky Affair" (from the name of 
the leader), and imprisoned in the Peter-Paul Fortress. 
Together with Dostoevsky and nineteen others he was 
condemned to be shot, but all the prisoners were pardoned 
by the Emperor (the charge was high treason) at the last 
moment, and after spending nine months in the fortress, 
Pleshtcheeff was sent to serve as a common soldier in the 
troops of the line, in the Orenburg government, with the 

210 Russian Literature 

loss of all his civil rights. There he remained nine years, 
taking part in several border campaigns, and rising to the 
rank of ensign, after which he entered the civil service. 
In 1859 ne was allowed to return to Moscow, whence he 
removed to St. Petersburg in 1872.* 

The principal writers of satirical verse during this 
period were: Alexyei Mikhailovitch Zhemtchuzhnikoff 
(1822), V. S. Kurotchkin (1 831-1875), who founded the 
extremely popular journal "The Spark," in 1859, an d 
D. D. Minaeff (1835-1889). 

*I saw him, a majestic old man, surrounded by an adoring- throng- of 
students and young- men, at one of the requiem services for M. E. Saltykoff 
(Shtchedrin), "in the Kazan Cathedral, St. Petersburg, in April, 1889. 


1. What had been the progress of the drama in Russia up 
to the time of Ostrovsky? 

2. How did " It Is All in the Family " make its appearance, 
and with what result? 

3. What especial value has the play " The Thunderstorm " ? 

4. What variety of subjects are treated in Ostrovsky's 

5. Why does his work rank so high? 

6. What plays by Turgeneff hold the next place to Ostrov- 

7. What are the best historical novels in the Russian 

8. What was the character of the poetry of this period? 

9. What ballads by Pol6nsky have a national reputation? 

10. Give the chief events in the life of Nekrd.soff. 

11. What hostile criticism have his works received? 

12. What may be said in his favor? 

13. What is the story of " Red-Nosed Frost"? 

14. What pictures of Russian society are given in " Russian 

Seventh Period 211 

15. How is the poet's wide knowledge shown in his poem 
"Who in Russia Finds Life Good"? 

16. Give an account of the eventful career of Shevtch6nko. 

17. What are the noteworthy features of his poetry? 


The Thunderstorm. Ostrovsky. 

Prince Serebryany; The Death of Ivan the Terrible. Count 
AlexeM K. Tolstoy. 

Red- Nosed Frost. N. A. Nekrdsoff. 



All the writers of the '40's of the nineteenth century- 
had their individual peculiarities. But in this respect, 
Feddor Mikhailovitch Dostoevsky (1 821-1880) was even 
more sharply separated from all the rest by his character- 
istics, which almost removed him from the ranks of the 
writers of the epoch, and gave him a special place in 

The chief cause of this distinction lies in the fact that 
while most of the other writers sprang from the country 
regions, being members of the landed gentry class, Dos- 
toevsky represents the plebeian, toiling class of society, a 
nervously choleric son of the town; and in the second 
place, while the majority of them were well-to-do, Dos- 
toevsky alone in the company belonged to the class of edu- 
cated strugglers with poverty, which had recently made its 

His father was staff physician in the Marya Hospital 
in Moscow, and he was the second son in a family of 
seven children. The whole family lived in two rooms, an 
ante-room and kitchen, which comprised the quarters 
allotted to the post by the government. Here strictly 
religious and patriarchal customs reigned, mitigated by 
the high cultivation of the head of the family. 

In 1837 Feodor Mikhailovitch and his elder brother 
were taken to St. Petersburg by their father to be placed 

Dostoevsky 213 

in the School for Engineers, but the elder did not succeed 
in entering, on account of feeble health. Dostoevsky had 
already evinced an inclination for literature, and naturally 
he was not very diligent in his studies of the dry, applied 
sciences taught in the school. But he found time to make 
acquaintance with the best works of Russian, English, 
French, and German classical authors. In 1843 ne com- 
pleted his course, and was appointed to actual service in 
the draughting department of the St. Petersburg engineer 

With his salary and the money sent to him by his 
guardian (his father being dead), he had about five thou- 
sand rubles a year, but as he was extremely improvident, 
bohemian, and luxurious in his tastes, he could never make 
both ends meet. He was still more straitened in 
his finances when, in 1844, he resigned from the service, 
which was repugnant to him, and utterly at variance with 
his literary proclivities, and was obliged to resort to 
making translations. In May, 1844, he completed his 
first romance, "Poor People," and sent it to Nekrasoff 
by his school-friend Grigorovitch. In his "Diary" Dos- 
toevsky has narrated the manner of its reception by Nekra- 
soff (who was preparing to publish a collection), and by 
Byelinsky, to whom the latter gave it. Grigorovitch and 
Nekrasoff sat up all night to read it, so fascinated were 
they, and then hastened straight to communicate their 
rapture to the author. Nekrasoff then gave the manu- 
script to Byelinsky with the exclamation, "A new Gogol 
has made his appearance!" to which Byelinsky sternly 
replied, "Gogols spring up like mushrooms with you." 
But when he had read the romance, he cried out, with 
emotion, "Bring him, bring him to me!" 

214 Russian Literature 

Even before the romance made its appearance in print 
(early in 1846), Dostoevsky had won a flattering literary 
reputation. The young author's head was fairly turned 
with his swift success, and he grew arrogant, the result of 
which was that he soon quarreled with Byelinsky, Nekra- 
soff, and their whole circle, and published his later writings 
(with one exception) elsewhere than in "The Contempo- 
rary." His coolness towards the circle of "The Con- 
temporary" was not a little aided by the difference in 
opinions which began to make themselves felt. Dos- 
toevsky was carried away by the political and social ideas 
which reigned in that circle, but at the same time he obsti- 
nately upheld his own religious views. The result of this 
was, that the members of the circle began to regard him 
as behind the times. He became more and more inter- 
ested in socialism, and soon went to live with his new 
friends in quarters where the principles of association 
ruled. He then entered the Duroff circle of Fourierists, 
the most moderate of all the Petrashevsky circles, which 
a good authority declares to have entertained no purely 
revolutionary ideas whatever. They rebelled against the 
maintenance of the strict censorship then in force, serf- 
dom, and administrative abuses, but paid little attention, to 
the question of a change in the form of government, and 
attributed no importance to political upheavals. Dos- 
toevsky himself was, in general, very far from cherishing 
any revolutionary designs; he enthusiastically declaimed 
Pushkin's verses about slavery falling "at the wave of the 
Tzar's hand," and insisted that no socialistic theories had 
the slightest importance for Russians, since in the com- 
mune, and the working unions {artel), and mutual guaran- 
tee system there had long existed in their land more solid 

Dostoevsky 1 1 5 

and normal foundations than all the dreams of Saint 
Simon and his school, and that life in a community and 
phalanstery seemed to him more terrible and repulsive 
than that of any galley-slave. 

Notwithstanding this, in May, 1 849, Dostoevsky was 
arrested, along with the other followers of Petrashevsky, 
confined in the fortress, and condemned by court-martial 
on the charge of having " taken part in discussions con- 
cerning the severity of the censorship, and in one assembly, 
in March, 1 849, had read a letter from Byelinsky to Gogol, 
received from Pleshtcheeff in Moscow, and had then read 
it aloud in the assemblies at Duroff's, and had given copies 
of it to Mombelli to copy. In the assemblies at Duroff's 
he had listened to the reading of articles, knew of the 
intention to set up a printing-press, and at Spyeshneff's 
had listened to the reading of 'A Soldier's Conversation.' " 

All the Petrashevskyians were condemned to be shot, 
and the sentence was read to them on January 3, 1850, on 
the scaffold, where they stood stripped, in the freezing 
cold, for twenty minutes, in momentary expectation of their 
execution. But the death sentence was mitigated in differ- 
ent degrees by the Emperor, Dostoevsky 's sentence being 
commuted to exile with hard labor for four years, and 
then service as a common soldier in the ranks. He was 
dispatched to Siberia two days later, which was on Christ- 
mas Eve, according to the Russian reckoning. 

The wives of the Decembrists (the men exiled for revo- 
lutionary plots in 1825, at the accession to the throne of 
the Emperor Nicholas I.), visited the Petrashevskyians in 
prison at Tobolsk and gave Dostoevsky a copy of the 
Gospels. No other book made its way within the prison 
walls, and after reading nothing else for the next three 

21 6 Russian Literature 

years, Dostoevsky, according to his own words, "forced 
by necessity to read the Bible only, was enabled more 
clearly and profoundly to grasp the meaning of Chris- 
tianity." In his "Notes from a Dead House" he has 
described in detail his life in the prison at Omsk, and all 
his impressions. Prison life produced an extremely crush- 
ing and unfavorable impression on him. He was brought 
into close contact with the common people, was enabled 
to study them, but he also became thoroughly imbued with 
that spirit of mysticism which is peculiar to ignorant and 
illiterate people. His own view of the universe was that 
of childlike faith, and prison life strengthened this view 
by leading him to see in it the foundation of the national 
spirit and the national life. During the last year of his 
prison life, under a milder commandant, he was able to 
renew his relations with former schoolmates and friends in 
the town, and through them obtain more money, write 
home, and even' come into possession of books. 

But his health was much affected, his nerves having 
been weak from childhood, and already so shattered that, 
in 1846, he was on the verge of insanity. Even at that 
time he had begun to have attacks by night of that "mysti- 
cal terror," which he has described in detail in "Humili- 
ated and Insulted," and he also had occasional epileptic 
fits. In Siberia epilepsy developed to such a point that 
it was no longer possible to entertain any doubt as to the 
character of his malady. 

On leaving prison, in 1854, and becoming a soldier, 
Dostoevsky was much better off. He was soon promoted 
to the rank of ensign, wrote a little, planned "Notes from 
a Dead House," and in 1856 married. At last, after 
prolonged efforts, he received permission to return to 

Dostoevsky 217 

European Russia, in July, 1859, an ^ settled in Tver. In 
the winter of that year, his rights, among them that of 
living in the capital, were restored to him, and in 186 1 he 
and his elder brother began to publish a journal called 
"The Times." The first number contained the first 
installment of "Humiliated and Insulted," and simultane- 
ously, during 1861-1862, "Notes from a Dead House" 
appeared there also, in addition to critical literary articles 
from his pen. This and other editorial and journalistic 
ventures met with varying success, and he suffered many 
reverses of fortune. In 1 865-1 866 he wrote his master- 
piece, "Crime and Punishment." His first wife having 
died, he married his stenographer, in 1867, and traveled 
in western Europe for the next four years, in the course 
of which he wrote his romances: "The Idiot" (1868), 
"The Eternal Husband" (1870), and "Devils" (1871-72). 
After his return to Russia he wrote (1875) "The Strip- 
ling," and (1876) began the publication of "The Diary of 
a Writer," which was in the nature of a monthly journal, 
made up of his own articles, chiefly of a political charac- 
ter, and bearing on the Serbo-Turkish War. But it also 
contained literary and autobiographical articles, and had 
an enormous success, despite the irregularity of its appear- 

In June, 1 880, he delivered a speech before the Society 
of Lovers of Russian Literature, which won him such 
popularity as he had never before enjoyed, and resulted 
in a tremendous ovation, on the part of the public, at the 
unveiling of the monument to Pushkin. He was besieged 
with letters and visits; people came to him incessantly 
from all parts of St. Petersburg and of Russia, with 
expressions of admiration, requests for aid, questions, 

2i 8 Russian Literature 

complaints against others, and expressions of opinions 
hostile to him personally. In the last half of 1880 he 
finished "The Karamazoff Brothers." His funeral, on 
February 15, 1 881, was very remarkable; the occasion of 
an unprecedented "manifestation," which those who took 
part in it are still proud of recalling. Forty-two deputa- 
tions bearing wreaths and an innumerable mass of people 
walked miles after his coffin to the cemetery of the Alex- 
ander Nevsky Monastery. 

Under the various influences to which Dostoevsky was 
subjected, he eventually became what is known in Russia 
as "a native-soiler, " in literature — the leader, in fact, of 
that semi-Slavyanophil, semi- Western school — and towards 
the end of his life was converted into a genuine Slavophil 
and mystic. In this conversion, as well as in the mystical 
theories which he preached in his "Diary," and after- 
wards in his romances, beginning with "Crime and Punish- 
ment, ' ' Dostoevsky has something in common with Count 
L. N. Tolstoy. Both writers were disenchanted as to 
European progress, admitted the mental and moral insolv- 
ency of educated Russian society, and fell into despair, 
from which the only escape, so it seemed to them, was 
becoming imbued with the lively faith of the common 
people, and both authors regarded this faith as the sole 
means of getting into real communion with the people. 
Then, becoming more and more imbued with the spirit of 
the Christian doctrine, both arrived at utter rejection of 
material improvement of the general welfare; Count Tol- 
stoy came out with a theory of non-resistance to evil by 
force, and Dostoevsky with a theory of moral elevation 
and purification by means of suffering, which in essence 
are identical; for in what manner does non-resistance to 

Dostoevsky 219 

evil manifest itself, if not in unmurmuring endurance of 
the sufferings caused by evil? 

Nevertheless, a profound difference exists between 
Count Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. In the former we see an 
absence of conservatism and devotion to tradition. His 
attitude towards all doctrines is that of unconditional free- 
dom of thought, and subjecting them to daring criticism, 
he chooses from among them only that which is in har- 
mony with the inspirations of his own reason. He is a 
genuine individualist, to his very marrow. By the masses 
of the common people, he does not mean the Russian 
nation only, but all the toilers and producers of the 
earth, without regard to nationality; while by the faith 
which he seeks among those toilers, he does not mean 
any fixed religious belief, but faith in the reasonableness 
and advantageousness of life, and of everything which 
exists, placing this faith in dependence upon brisk, healthy 

Dostoevsky, on the contrary, is a communist, or social- 
ist. He cares nothing for freedom and the self-perfection 
of the individual. The individual, according to his teaching, 
should merely submit, and resignedly offer itself up as a 
sacrifice to society, for the sake of fulfilling that mission 
which Russia is foreordained, as God's chosen nation, to 
accomplish. This mission consists in the realization upon 
earth of true Christianity in orthodoxy,* to which the 
Russian people remain faithful and devoted; union with 
the common people is to be accomplished in that manner 
alone; like the common people, with the same boundless 
faith and devotion, orthodoxy must be professed, for in it 

* Meaning the faith of the Holy Catholic Apostolic Church of the East. 
A great many Russians believe this, and that Russia's mission on earth is a 
moral and spiritual one, founded upon precisely this basis. 

iio Russian Literature 

alone lies all salvation, not only for the world as a whole, 
but for every individual. 

The character of Dostoevsky's works is determined by 
the fact that he was a child of the town. In their form 
they possess none of that elegant regularity, of that classi- 
cal finish and clear-cut outline, which impress us in the 
works of Turgeneff and Gontcharoff. On the contrary, 
they surprise us by their awkwardness, their prolixity, 
their lack of severe finish, which requires abundant lei- 
sure. It is evident that they were written in haste, by a 
man who was eternally in want, embarrassed with debts, 
and incapable of making the two ends meet financially. 
At the same time one is struck by the entire absence in 
Dostoevsky's works of those artistic elements in which the 
works of the other authors of the '40's are rich. They 
contain no enchanting pictures of nature, no soul-stirring 
love scenes, meetings, kisses, the bewitching feminine 
types which turn the reader's head, for which Turgeneff 
and Tolstoy are famous. Dostoevsky even ridicules 
Turgeneff for his feminine portraits, in ' 'Devils," under 
the character of the writer Karmazinoff, with his passion 
for depicting kisses not as they take place with all man- 
kind, but with gorse or some such weed growing round 
about, which one must look up in a botany, while the sky 
must not fail to be of a purplish hue, which, of course, no 
mortal ever beheld, and the tree under which the interest- 
ing pair is seated must infallibly be orange-colored, and 
so forth. 

Dostoevsky's subjects also present a sharp difference 
from those of his contemporaries, whose subjects are char- 
acterized by extreme simplicity and absence of complica- 
tion, only a few actors being brought on the stage — not 

Dostoevsky ill 

more than two, three, or four — and the entire plot being, 
as a rule, confined to the rivalry of two lovers, and to the 
question upon which of them the heroine will bestow her 
love. It is quite the contrary with Dostoevsky. His 
plots are complicated and entangled, he introduces a 
throng of acting personages. In reading his romances, 
one seems to hear the roar of the crowd, and the life of a 
town is unrolled before one, with all its bustle, its inces- 
santly complicated and unexpected encounters, and rela- 
tions of people one to another. Like a true child of the 
town, Dostoevsky does not confine himself to fashionable 
drawing-rooms, or to the educated classes; he is fond, of 
introducing the reader to the dens of poverty and vice, 
which he invests, also, with their own peculiar, gloomy 
poetry. In his pictures of low life, he more resembles 
Dickens than the followers of Georges Sand of his day. 

But the most essential quality of Dostoevsky's creative 
art is the psychical analysis, which occupies the fore- 
ground in the majority of his romances, and constitutes 
their chief power and value. A well-known alienist doc- 
tor, who has examined these romances from a scientific 
point of view, declares himself amazed by the scientific 
accuracy wherewith Dostoevsky has depicted the mentally 
afflicted. In his opinion, about one-fourth of this author's 
characters are more or less afflicted in this manner, some 
romances containing as many as three who are not normal, 
in one way or another. This doctor demonstrates that 
Dostoevsky was a great psycopathologist, and that, with 
his artistic insight, he anticipated even exact science. And 
much that he has written will certainly be incorporated in 
psychological text-books. It is superfluous, after such 
competent testimony, to insist upon the life-likeness and 

222 Russian Literature 

the truth to nature of his portraits. The effect of his 
books on a reader is overwhelming, even stunning and 

One further point is to be noted: that notwithstanding 
the immense number of characters presented to the reader 
by Dostoevsky, they all belong to a very limited number 
of types, which are repeated, with slight variations, in all 
his romances. Thus, in conformity with the doctrine of 
the "native-soilers, " he places at the foundation of the 
majority of his works one of the two following types: (i) 
The gentle type of the man overflowing with tender affec- 
tion of utter self-sacrifice, ready to forgive everything, to 
justify everything, to bear himself compassionately towards 
the treachery of the girl he loves, and to go on loving her, 
even to the point of removing the obstacles to her marriage 
with another man, and so forth. Such is the hero of 
"Crime and Punishment"; such is Prince Myshkinh in 
"The Idiot," and so on; (2) The rapacious type, the type 
of the egoist, brimming over with passion, knowing no 
bounds to his desires, and restrained by no laws, either 
human or divine. Such are: Stavrogin in "Devils," 
Dmitry Karamazoff ("The Karamazoff Brothers"), and 
so forth. His women also can be divided into two simi- 
lar, contrasting types; on the one hand, the gentle — the 
type of the woman who possesses a heart which is tender 
and loving to self-abnegation, like Nelly and Natasha, in 
"Humiliated and Insulted"; Raskolnikoff's mother and 
Sonya, in "Crime and Punishment"; Netotchka Nezva- 
noff, in "The Stripling." On the other hand, there are 
the rapacious types of capricious, charming women who 
are tyrannical to the point of cruelty, like Polina, in 
"The Gambler," Nastasya Filippovna in "The Idiot," 

Dostoevsky 223 

Grushenka and Katerina Ivanovna in "The Karamazoff 
Brothers," and Varvara Petrovna, in "Devils." 

The reactionary tendency made its appearance in Dos- 
toevsky almost contemporaneously with its appearance in 
Turgeneff and Gontcharoff, unhappily. The first romance 
in which it presented itself was "Crime and Punishment," 
the masterpiece in which his talent attained its zenith. 
This work, in virtue of its psychical and psychological 
analyses, deserves to rank among the greatest and best 
monuments of European literary art in the nineteenth cen- 
tury. Unfortunately, it produced a strange impression on 
all reasonable people, because of the fact that the author 
suddenly makes the crime of his hero, Raskolnikoff, 
dependent upon the influence of new ideas, as though they 
justified crimes, committed with good objects. No less 
surprising is the manner in which the romance winds up 
with the moral regeneration of Raskolnikoff under the 
influence of exile with hard labor. 

Dostoevsky, to be fully appreciated, requires — perhaps 
more than most writers — to be read at length. But 
the following brief extract will afford a glimpse of his 
manner. The extract is from the "Notes from a Dead 
House." Sushiloff was a prisoner who had been sent 
to Siberia merely for colonization, for some trifling breach 
of the laws. During a fit of intoxication he had been 
persuaded by a prisoner named Mikhailoff to exchange 
names and punishments, in consideration of a new red 
shirt and one ruble in cash. Such exchanges were by no 
means rare, but the prisoner to whose disadvantage the 
bargain redounded, generally demanded scores of rubles; 
hence, every one ridiculed Sushiloff for the cheap rate at 
which he had sold his light sentence. Had he been able 

224 Russian Literature 

to return the ruble (which he had immediately spent for 
liquor), he might have bought back his name, but the 
prisoners' artel, or guild, always insisted upon the strict 
fulfilment of such bargains in default of the money being 
refunded; and if the authorities suspected such exchanges, 
they did not pry into them, it being immaterial to the offi- 
cials (in Siberia at least) what man served out the sentence, 
so long as they could make their accounts tally. Thus 
much in explanation abbreviated from Dostoevsky's state- 

" Sushiloff and I lived a long time together, several years in 
all. He gradually became greatly attached to me ; I could not 
help perceiving this, as I had, also, become thoroughly used to 
him. But one day — I shall never forgive myself for it — he did 
not comply with some request of mine, although he had just re- 
ceived money from me, and I had the cruelty to say to him, 
' Here you are taking my money, Sushiloff, but you don't do 
your duty." Sushiloff made no reply, but seemed suddenly to 
grow melancholy. Two days elapsed. I said to myself, it 
cannot be the result of my words. I knew that a certain pris- 
oner, Anton Vasilieff, was urgently dunning him for a petty 
debt. He certainly had no money, and was afraid to ask me 
for any. So on the third day, I said to him: 'Sushiloff, I 
think you have wanted to ask me for money to pay Anton 
Vasilieff. Here it is.' I was sitting on the sleeping-shelf at 
the time ; Sushiloff was standing in front of me. He seemed 
very much surprised that I should offer him the money of my 
own accord ; that I should voluntarily remember his difficult 
situation, the more so as, in his opinion, he had already, and 
that recently, taken altogether too much from me in advance, 
so that he dared not hope that I would give him any more. He 
looked at the money, then at me, abruptly turned away and 
left the room. All this greatly amazed me. I followed him 
and found him behind the barracks. He was standing by the 
prison stockade with his face to the fence, his head leaning 
against it, and propping himself against it with his arm. 'Su- 

Dostoevsky 225 

shiloff, what's the matter with you?' I asked him. He did not 
look at me, and to my extreme surprise, I observed that he was on 
the verge of weeping. 'You think — Alexander Petrovitch — '* 
he began, in a broken voice, as he endeavored to look another 
way, 'that I serve you — for money — but I — I — e-e-ekh !' Here 
he turned again to the fence, so that he even banged his brow 
against it — and how he did begin to sob ! It was the first time 
I had beheld a man weep in the prison. With difficulty I com- 
forted him, and although from that day forth, he began to serve 
me more zealously than ever, if that were possible, and to 
watch over me, yet I perceived, from almost imperceptible 
signs, that his heart could never pardon me for my reproach ; 
and yet the others laughed at us, persecuted him at every con- 
venient opportunity, sometimes cursed him violently — but he 
lived in concord and friendship with them and never took 
offense. Yes, it is sometimes very difficult to know a man 
thoroughly, even after long years of acquaintance!" 

Dostoevsky, in all his important novels, has much to 
say about religion, and his personages all illustrate some 
phase of religious life. This is nowhere more apparent 
than in his last novel, "The Karamazoff Brothers," 
wherein the religious note is more powerfully struck than 
in any of the others. The ideal of the Orthodox Church 
of the East is embodied in Father Zosim, and in his gentle 
disciple, Alexyei (Alyosha) Karamazoff; the reconciling 
power of redemption is again set forth over the guilty soul 
of the principal hero, Dmitry Karamazoff, when he is 
overtaken by chastisement for a suspected crime. The 
doubting element is represented by Ivan Karamazoff, who 
is tortured by a constant conflict with anxious questions. 
In "The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor," which the 
author puts into Ivan's mouth, Dostoevsky's famous and 
characteristic power of analysis reached its greatest height. 

*The narrator, in "Notes from a Dead House," is assumed to be a pris- 
oner named Alexander Petrovitch Goryantchikoff. 

226 Russian Literature 

Belonging to no class, and famous for but one book, 
which does not even count as literature, yet chronologically 
a member of this period, was Nikolai Gavrilovitch Tcherny- 
shevsky (182 8-1 889). After 1863 he exerted an immense 
influence on the minds of young people of both sexes; and 
of all the writers of the "storm and stress" period, he is 
the most interesting, because, in his renowned book, 
"What Is to Be Done?" he applied his theories to practi- 
cal life. His success was due, not to the practicability of 
his theories, to his literary qualities, to his art, but to the 
fact that he contrived to unite two things, each one of which, 
as a rule, is found in a writer; he simultaneously touched 
the two most responsive chords in the human heart — the 
thirst for easy happiness, and the imperative necessity for 
ascetic self-sacrifice. Hence, he won a response from the 
most diametrically conflicting natures. 

"What Is to Be Done" is the story of a young girl 
who, with the greatest improbability, is represented as 
being of the purest, most lofty character and sentiments, 
yet the daughter of two phenomenally (almost impossibly) 
degraded people. Instead of marrying the rich and not 
otherwise undesirable man whom her parents urge on her, 
and who is deeply in love with her, she runs away with 
her teacher, and stipulates in advance for life in three 
rooms. She is only seventeen, yet she promptly estab- 
lishes a fashion-shop which thrives apace, and puts forth 
numerous branches all over the capital. Her working- 
girls are treated ideally and as equals; she working with 
them, in which lies the answer to "What Is to Be Done?" 
After a while she falls in love with her husband's dearest 
friend, who is described as so exactly like him that the 
reader is puzzled to know wherein she descried favorable 

Dostoevsky 227 

difference, and the husband, perceiving this, makes things 
easy by pretending to drown himself, but in reality going 
off to America. Several years later he returns — as an 
American — and his ex- wife's present husband, having 
become a medical celebrity, helps him to a bride by inform- 
ing her panic-stricken parents (who oppose the match, 
although they are ignorant at first of any legal impediment 
to the union), that she will certainly die if they do not 
yield. The two newly assorted couples live in peace, 
happiness, and prosperity ever after. Work and com- 
munity life are the chief themes of the preachment. He 
was exiled to Siberia in 1864, and on his return to Russia 
(when he settled in Astrakhan, and was permitted to 
resume his literary labors), he busied himself with transla- 
tions, critical articles, and the like, but was unable to 
regain his former place in literature. 


1. Describe the early life of Dostoevsky. 

2. How were his first writings received? 

3. What relation had he to the social agitations of the times? 

4. Upon what charge was he exiled to Siberia? 

5. How were his views affected by his prison life? 

6. Give some account of his literary activities. 

7. How did his views resemble those of Tolstoy? 

8. How did they differ? 

9. What are the characteristics of Dostoevsky's style? 

10. What are the chief types portrayed in his novels? 

11. What two periods of his life are represented by his 
"Notes From a Dead House" and his later works? 

12. Why has " What Is to Be Done ? " achieved such popu- 
larity ? 

228 Russian Literature 


Buried A live ; or, Ten Years' Penal Servitude in Siberia. 
("Notes From a Dead House.") There are also other trans- 
lations bearing various titles. 

Poor Folk. Crime and Punishment. Hu??ibled and In- 
sulted. (The last two abbreviated are translated by F. 
Wishaw.) F. M. Dostoevsky. 

What is to be Done? A Vital Question. (Two translations 
of the same work.) N. G. Tchernyshevsky. 



Under the influence of the romantic movement in west- 
ern Europe, in the '30's of the nineteenth century, and in 
particular under the deep impression made by Sir Walter 
Scott's novels, historical novels and historical studies 
began to make their appearance in Russia, and in the 
'50's underwent two periods of existence, which totally 
differed from each other. 

During the first period the romance-writers, including 
even Pushkin, treated things from a governmental point 
of view, and dealt only with such epochs, all more or less 
remote, as the censorship permitted. For example, Zago- 
skin, the best known of the historical novelists, wrote 
"Askold's Grave," from the epoch of the baptism of the 
Russians, in the tenth century, and "Yury Miloslavsky, " 
from the epoch of the Pretender, early in the seventeenth 
century; while Lazhetchnikoff wrote "The Mussulman," 
from the reign of Ivan III., sixteenth century, and "The 
Last Court Page," from the epoch of Peter the Great's 
wars with Sweden. The historical facts were alluded to 
in a slight, passing way, or narrated after the fashion of 
Karamzin, in lofty terms, with artificial patriotic inspira- 
tion. As the authors lacked archaeological learning, the 
manners and accessories of the past were merely sketched 
in a general, indefinite way, and often inaccurately, while 


230 Russian Literature 

the pages were chiefly filled with the sentimental love- 
passages of two or three virtuous heroes of stereotyped 
patterns, who were subjected to frightful adventures, per- 
ished several times, and were resuscitated for the purpose 
of marrying in ordinary fashion at the end. 

In the '50's people became far too much interested in 
the present to pay much heed to the past. Yet precisely 
at that time the two finest historians came to the front, 
Sergyei M. Solovieff and N. I. Kostomaroff, and effected 
a complete revolution in historiography. Solovieff's 
great history brings the narrative down to the reign of 
Katherine II. Kostomaroff dealt with periods, giving a 
complete picture of each one; hence each study, while 
complete in itself, does not of necessity always contain the 
whole career of the personages who figure in it. But both 
writers are essentially (despite KostomarorFs not very 
successful attempts at historical novels) serious historians. 

As we have already seen, the novels of the two Counts 
Tolstoy, "War and Peace" and "Prince Serebryani," 
stand quite apart, and far above all others. 

But among the favorites of lesser rank are Grigory 
Petrovitch Danilevsky (born in 1829), whose best histori- 
cal novel is "Mirovitch, " though it takes unwarrantable 
liberties with the personages of the epoch depicted (that 
of Katherine II.) and those in the adjacent periods. 
Less good, though popular, is his "Princess Tarakanoff , ' ' 
the history of a supposed daughter of the Empress Eliza- 

Half-way between the historians and the portrayers of 
popular life, and in a measure belonging to both ranks, 
are several talented men. The most famous of them was 
Pavel Ivanovitch Melnikoff (18 19-1883), whose official 

Seventh Period 231 

duties enabled him to make an exhaustive study of the 
"Old Ritualists' ' * along the middle Volga. 

His two novels, "In the Forests" and "On the Hills" (of 
the eastern and western banks of the Volga, respectively), 
are utterly unlike anything else in the language, and are 
immensely popular with Russians. They are history in 
that they faithfully reproduce the manners and beliefs of 
a whole class of the population; they are genre studies 
of a very valuable ethnographical character in their fidelity 
to nature. Long as they are, the interest never flags for 
a moment, but it is not likely that they will ever appear 
in an English translation. Too extensive and intimate a 
knowledge of national ways and beliefs (both of the State 
Church and the schismatics) are required to allow of their 
being popular with the majority of foreigners who read 
Russian; for the non-Russian reading foreigner an exces- 
sive amount of explanatory notes would be required, and 
they would resemble treatises. But they are two of the 
most delightful books of the epoch, and classics in their 
way. Melnikoff wrote, for a long time, under the pseudo- 
nym of "Andrei Petchersky." 

Nikolai SemenovitcK Lyeskoff (183 7-1 895), who long 
wrote under the pseudonym of "M. Stebnitzky, ' ' is 
another author famous for his portraits of a whole class 
of the population, his specialty being the priestly class. 
He was of noble birth, and was reared in luxury, but was 
orphaned and ruined at a very early age, so that he was 
obliged to earn a hard living, first in government service, 
then as traveler for a private firm. This extensive travel- 
ing afforded him the opportunity of making acquaintance 

*The "Old Ritualists" or raskdhiiki, are those who do not accept the 
corrections to the Church books, and so forth, made in seventeenth century, 
by the Patriarch Nikon. 

232 Russian Literature 

with the life of all classes of the population. He began 
to write in i860, but a few incautious words, in 1862, 
raised a storm against him in the liberal press, which 
accused him of instigating the police to their attacks upon 
young people. As Count Tolstoy remarked to me, this 
incident prevented- Lyeskoff ever receiving the full meed 
of recognition which his talent merited ; a large and influ- 
ential section of the press was permanently in league 
against him. This, eventually, so exasperated and embit- 
tered Lyeskoff that he really did go over to the conserva- 
tive camp, and the first result of his wrath was the romance 
"No Thoroughfare," published in 1865. Its chief char- 
acters are two ideal socialists, a man and a woman, recog- 
nized by contemporaries as the portraits of living persons. 
Both are represented as finding so-called socialists to be 
merely crafty nihilists. This raised another storm, and 
still further embittered Lyeskoff, who expressed himself in 
"To the Knife" (in the middle of the '7_p's), a mad pro- 
duction, wherein revolutionists .(or "nihilists," as they 
were then generally called) were represented as condensed 
incarnations of the seven deadly sins. These works had 
much to do with preventing Lyeskoff from taking that 
high place in the public estimation which his other works 
(a mass of novels and tales devoid of political tendency) 
and his great talent would have otherwise assured to him. 
Of his large works, "The Cathedral Staff," with its 
sympathetic and life-like portraits of Archpriest Savely 
Tuberosoff and his athletic Deacon Achilles, and his 
"Episcopal Trifles" rank first. The latter volume, 
which consists of a series of pictures setting forth the dark 
sides of life in the highest ecclesiastical hierarchy, created 
a great sensation in the early '8o's, and raised a third 

Seventh Period 233 

storm, and the author fell into disfavor in official circles. 
Perhaps the most perfect of his works is one of the 
shorter novels, "The Sealed Angel," which deals with 
the ways and beliefs of the Old Ritualists (though in the 
vicinity of Kieff, not in Melnikoff's province), and is 
regarded as a classic, besides being a pure delight to the 
initiated reader. Count L. N. Tolstoy greatly admired 
(he told me) Lyeskoff' s "At the End of the World," a 
tale of missionary effort in Siberia, which is equally 
delightful in its way, though less great. Towards the 
end of his career, Lyeskoff was inclined to mysticism, and 
began to work over ancient religious legends, or to invent 
new ones in the same style.* 

The direct and immediate result of the democratic 
tendency on Russian thought and attraction to the com- 
mon people during this era was the creation of a school 
of writers who devoted themselves almost exclusively to 
that sphere, in addition to the contributions from Turge- 
neff, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky. Among these was a well- 
known woman writer, Marya Alexandrevna Markovitch, 
who published her first Little Russian Tales, in 1859, 
under the name of "Marko Vovtchek." She immediately 
translated them into Russian, and they were printed in 
the best journals of the day. I. S. Turgeneff translated 
one volume into Russian (for her Little Russian language 
was not of the supreme quality that characterized 
Shevtchenko's, which needed no translating), and Dobro- 
liuboff, an authoritative critic of that period, expressed 
himself in the most flattering manner about them. But 

* Count L. N. Tolstoy presented me with a copy of one of these legends 
—a most distressing and improbable affair— with the remark, "Lyeskoff has 
spoiled himself by imitating me." He meant that Lyeskoff was imitating his 
little moral tales and legends, to which he had been devoting himself for 
some time past. 1 agreed with Tolstoy, as to the effect. 

234 Russian Literature 

her fame withered away as quickly as it had sprung up. 
The weak points of her tales had been pardoned because 
of their political contents; in ten years they had lost their 
charm, and their defects — a too superficial knowledge of 
the people's life, the absence of living, authentic coloring 
in portraiture, its restriction to general, stereotyped types, 
such as might have been borrowed from popular tales and 
ballads, and excess of sentimentality — became too appar- 
ent to be overlooked by a more enlightened public. 

The only other woman writer of this period who 
acquired much reputation may be mentioned here, although 
she cannot be classed strictly with portrayers of the 
people: Nadezhda Dmitrievna Khvoshtchinsky, whose 
married name was Zaiontchkovsky, and who wrote under 
the pseudonym of "V. Krestovsky" (1825-1889). She 
published a great many short stories of provincial town 
life, rather narrow as to their sphere of observation. Her 
best work was "The Great Bear" (referring to the con- 
stellation), which appeared in 1870-1871.* 

When literature entered upon a fresh phase of develop- 
ment in the '70's of the last century, the careful study of 
the people, two men headed the movement, Glyeb Ivano- 
vitch Uspensky and Nilkolai Nikolaevitch Zlatovratsky. 
Uspensky (1840) took the negative and pessimistic view. 
Zlatovratsky (1845) took the positive, optimistic view.j- 

Like many authors of that period, adverse conditions 
hindered Uspensky 's march to fame. Shortly after his 
first work, "The Manners of Rasteryaeff Street," began 
to appear in "The Contemporary," that journal was 

* Although she was very ill and weak, she was good enough to ask me to 
visit her, a few months before she died, in 1889. 

t Count L. N. Tolstoy told me that Uspensky had never been sufficiently 
appreciated. He also praised Zlatovratsky highly. 

Seventh Period 13$ 

stopped. He continued it in another journal, which also 
was stopped before his work was finished, and that after 
he had been forced to cut out everything which gave a hint 
at its being a "continuation," so that it might appear to 
be an independent whole. He was obliged to publish the 
mangled remains in "The Woman's News," because there 
was hardly any other journal then left running. After 
the Servian War (generally called abroad "the Russo- 
Turkish War") of 1 877-1 878, Uspensky abandoned the 
plebeian classes to descend to "the original source" of 
everything — the peasant. When he published the disen- 
chanting result of his observations, showing to what lengths 
a peasant will go for money, there was a sensation. This 
was augmented by his sketch, "Hard Labor"; and a still 
greater sensation ensued on the publication of his " 'Tis Not 
a Matter of Habit" (known in book form as "The Eccen- 
tric Master"). In "Hard Labor" he set forth, contrary 
to all theoretical beliefs, that the peasants of villages which 
had belonged to private landed proprietors prior to the 
emancipation, were incomparably and incontestably more 
industrious and moral than the peasants on the crown 
estates, who had always been practically free men.-j- 

Readers were still more alarmed by the deductions set 
forth in his "An Eccentric Master." The hero is an 
educated man, Mikhail Mikhailovitch, who betakes himself 
to the rural wilds with the express object of "toiling there 
exactly like the rest, as an equal in morals and duties, to 
sleep with the rest on the straw, to eat from one pot with 
them" (the Tolstoyan theory, but in advance of him), 
"while the money acquired thus by general toil was to be 

f Former crown serfs repeatedly told me how free they had been — how 
much better off than those of private persons. 

236 Russian Literature 

the property of a group of people to be formed from peas- 
ants and from actually ruined former members of the upper 
classes." But the peasants, not comprehending the 
master's lofty aims, treated him as an eccentric fool, and 
began to rob him in all directions, meanwhile humoring 
him to the top of his bent in all his instincts of master. 
It ends in Mikhail Mikhailovitch becoming thoroughly 
disillusioned, dejected, and taking to drink after having 
expended the whole of his capital on the ungrateful peas- 
ants. This will serve to illustrate Uspensky's pessimistic 
point of view, for which he certainly had solid grounds. 

While Uspensky never sought artistic effects in his 
work, and his chief strength lay in humor, in ridicule 
which pitilessly destroyed all illusions, Zlatovratsky never 
indulges in a smile, and is always, whether grieving or 
rejoicing, in a somewhat exalted frame of mind, which 
often attains the pitch of epic pathos, so that even his 
style assumes a rather poetical turn, something in the 
manner of hexameters. Moreover, he is far from despis- 
ing the artistic element. He established his fame in 1874 
by his first large work, "Peasant Jurors." 

As Zlatovratsky (whose father belonged to the priestly 
class) regards as ideal the commune and the peasant 
guild {artel'), with their individualistic, moral ideals of 
union in a spirit of brotherly love and solidarity, both in 
work and in the enjoyment of its products, his pessimism 
is directed against the Russian educated classes, not 
excepting even their very best representatives. This view 
he expresses in "all his works which depict the educated 
classes: "The Golden Heart," "The Wanderer," "The 
Kremleff Family," "The Karavaeffs," "The Hetman," 
and so forth. In these he represents educated people — 

Seventh Period 237 

the better classes, called "intelligent" people by Rus- 
sians — under the guise of sheep who have strayed from 
the true fold, and the only thing about them which he 
regards as a sign of life (in a few of the best of them) is 
their vain efforts to identify themselves with the common 
people, and thus, as it were, restore the lost paradise.* 

There are many others who have written sketches and 
more ambitious works founded on a more or less intimate 
study and knowledge of the peasants. On one of these 
we must turn our attention, briefly, as the author of one 
famous and heartrending book, "The Inhabitants of 
Podlipovo." Feodor Mikhailovitch Ryeshetnikoff (1841- 
1871) was one of three middle-class ("plebeian" is the 
Russian word) writers who made a name, the others being 
Alexander Ivanovitch Levitoff and Nikolai Ivanovitch 
Naumoff . For in proportion as culture spread among 
the masses of society, and the center of the intellectual 
movement was transferred from the noble class to the 
plebeian, in the literary circles towards the end of the 
'50's there appeared a great flood of new forces from 
the lower classes. The three writers above mentioned, 
as well as Uspensky and Zlatovratsky, belonged to the 
priestly plebeian class. Ryeshetnikoff' s famous romance 
— rather a short story — was the outcome of his own hard- 
ships, sufferings, and experiences. He was scantily edu- 
cated, had no aesthetic taste, wrote roughly, not always 
grammatically, and always in excessively gloomy colors, 
yet he had the reputation of being a passionate lover of 
the people, despite the fact that his picture of the peasants 
in his best known work is generally regarded as almost a 

♦Naturally, it is this feature of his writings which made Count Tolstoy 
laud him so highly to me. 

238 Russian Literature 

caricature in its exaggerated gloom, and he enjoys wide 
popularity even at the present time. 

The spirits of people rose during the epoch of Reform 
(after the Emancipation of the serfs in 186 1) and the general 
impulse to take an interest in political and social questions 
was speedily reflected in literature by the formation of a 
special branch of that art, which was known as "tendency 
literature," although its more accurate title would have 
been "publicist literature." The peculiarity of most 
writers of this class was their pessimistic skepticism. 
This publicist literature was divided into three classes: 
democratic, moderately liberal, and conservative. 

At the head of the democratic branch stood the great 
writer who constituted the pride and honor of the epoch, 
as the one who most profoundly and fully reflected it, 
Mikhail Evgrafovitch Saltykoff (1826-1889). He was 
the son of landed proprietors, of an ancient family, with a 
famous name of Tatar descent. He finished his educa- 
tion in the Tzarskoe Selo Lyceum, which, from the time 
of Pushkin on, graduated so many notable statesmen and 
distinguished men. The authorities of the Lyceum were 
endeavoring to exterminate the spirit of Pushkin, who 
had died only the year before, and severely repressed all 
scribbling of poetry, which did not in the least prevent 
almost every boy in the school from trying his hand at it 
and dreaming of future fame. Thus incited, Saltykoff, 
from the moment of his entrance, earned the ill-will of the 
authorities by his passionate love of verse writing and 
reading, and when he graduated, in 1844, it was in the 
lower half of his class, and with one rank lower in the 
civil service than the upper half of the class. 

Seventh Period 239 

In 1847 ne published (under the name of "M. Nepa- 
noff") his first story, "Contradictions," and in 1848 his 
second, "A Tangled Affair," both in "The Annals of the 
Fatherland." When the strictness of the censorship was 
augmented during that same year, after "the Petrashevsky 
affair, " all literary men fell under suspicion. When Salty - 
koff asked for leave of absence from the service to go 
home during the holidays, he was commanded to produce 
his writings. Although these early writings contained 
hardly a hint of the satirical talents which he afterwards 
developed, the person to whom was intrusted the task of 
making a report of them (and who was a sworn enemy to 
the natural school and "The Annals of the Fatherland") 
gave such an alarming account of them that the Count 
Tchernysheff was frightened at having so dangerous a 
man in his ministerial department. The result was, that 
in May, 1848, a posting-troika halted in front of Salty- 
koff's lodgings, and the accompanying gendarme was 
under orders to escort the offender off to Vyatka on the 

In Saltykoff's case, as in the case of many another 
Russian writer, exile not only removed him from the dis- 
tracting pleasures of life at the capital, but also laid the 
foundation for his future greatness. In Vyatka, Saltykoff 
first served as one of the officials in the government office, 
but by the autumn he was appointed the official for special 
commissions immediately attached to the governor's ser- 
vice. He was a valued friend in the family of the vice- 
governor, for whose young daughters he wrote a "Short 
History of Russia, ' ' and after winning further laurels in 
the service, he was allowed to return to St. Petersburg in 
1856, when he married one of the young girls, and pub- 

240 Russian Literature 

lished his "Governmental Sketches," with the materials 
for which his exile had furnished him. Two years later 
he was appointed vice-governor of Ryazan, then trans- 
ferred to Tver, where he acted as governor on several 
occasions. In 1862 he retired from the service and 
devoted himself to literature, but he returned to it a couple 
of years later, and only retired definitively in 1868. These 
items are of interest as showing the status of political exiles 
in a different light from that usually accepted as the 
unvarying rule. 

As we have said, Saltykoff' s exile was of incalculable 
service to him, in that it made him acquainted with the 
inward life of Russia and of the people. This knowledge 
he put to unsparing use in his famous satires. In order 
fully to understand his works, one must be thoroughly 
familiar with the general spirit and the special ideas of the 
different periods to which they refer, as well as with 
Russia and its life and literature in general. Saltykoff 
(who wrote under the name of "Shtchedrin") was very 
keen to catch the spirit of the moment, and very caustic 
in portraying it, with the result that very often the names 
he invented for his characters clove to whole classes of 
society, and have become by-words, the mere mention of 
which reproduces the whole type. For example, after 
the Emancipation, when the majority of landed propri- 
etors were compelled to give up their parasitic life on the 
serfs, there arose a class of educated people who were 
seeking fresh fields for their easy, parasitic existence. One 
of the commonest expedients, in the '70's, for restor- 
ing shattered finances was to go to Tashkent, where the 
cultured classes imagined that regular gold mines awaited 
them. Saltykoff instantly detected this movement, and 

Seventh Period 241 

not only branded the pioneers in the colonization of Central 
Asia with the name of "Tashkentzians" (in "Gospoda 
Tashkentzy" Messrs. Tashkentzians) , but according to 
his wont, he rendered this nickname general by applying 
it to all cultured classes who had nothing in their souls but 
an insatiable appetite. In other works he branded other 
movements and classes with equal ineffaceableness. 

His masterpiece (in his third and most developed 
period), the work which foreigners can comprehend 
almost equally well with Russians, is "Gospoda Golo- 
vlevy" ("The Messrs. GolovlefT" *) . It contains that 
element of the universal in humanity which his national 
satires lack, and it alone would suffice to render him 
immortal. The type of Iudiushka (little Judas) has no 
superior in all European literature, for its cold, calculating, 
cynical hypocrisy, its miserly ferocity. The book is a 
presentment of old ante-reform manners among the landed 
gentry at their worst. 

The following favorite little story furnishes an excellent 
example of Saltykdff's (Shtchedrin's) caustic wit and satire : 

The Story of how One Peasant Maintained Two 

Once upon a time there lived and flourished two Generals; 
and as both were giddy-pated, by jesting command, at my 
desire, they were speedily transported to an uninhabited 

The Generals had served all their lives in some registry office 
or other; they had been born there, reared there, had grown old 
there, and consequently they understood nothing whatever. 

* Or, "The Golovleffs," the above being the more formal translation. 
Saltykoff was too ill to receive strangers when I was in Russia. But I 
attended a requiem service over his body, at his home; another at the 
Kazan Cathedral, where all the literary lights assembled; and went to his 
funeral in the outlying cemetery, thereby having the good fortune to behold 
one of the famous "demonstrations" in which the Russian public indulges 
on such occasions. 

242 Russian Literature 

They did not even know any words except, " accept the 
assurance of my complete respect and devotion." 

The registry was abolished as superfluous, and the Generals 
were set at liberty. Being thus on the retired list, they settled 
in Petersburg, in Podyatchesky (Pettifoggers) Street, in separate 
quarters; each had his own cook, and received a pension. But 
all of a sudden, they found themselves on an uninhabited 
island, and when they awoke, they saw that they were lying 
under one coverlet. Of course, at first they could not under- 
stand it at all, and they began to talk as though nothing 
whatever had happened to them. 

" 'Tis strange, your Excellency, I had a dream to-day," 
said one General; " I seemed to be living on a desert island." 

No sooner had he said this than he sprang to his feet. The 
other General did the same. 

"Heavens! What's the meaning of this? Where are we?" 
cried both, with one voice. 

Then they began to feel each other, to discover whether 
this extraordinary thing had happened to them not in a dream, 
but in their waking hours. But try as they might to convince 
themselves that all this was nothing but a vision of their sleep, 
they were forced to the conviction of its sad reality. 

On one side of them stretched the sea, on the other side 
lay a small plot of land, and beyond it again stretched the same 
boundless sea. The Generals began to weep, for the first time 
since the registry office had been closed. 

They began to gaze at each other, and they then perceived 
that they were clad only in their night-shirts, and on the neck 
of each hung an order. 

"How good a little coffee would taste now!" ejaculated 
one General, but then he remembered what unprecedented 
adventure had happened to him, and he began to cry again. 

"But what are we to do?" he continued, through his 
tears; " if we were to write a report, of what use would it be? " 

"This is what we must do," replied the other General. 
" Do you go to the east, your Excellency, and I will go to the 
west, and in the evening we will meet again at this place; 
perhaps we shall find something." 

Seventh Period 243 

So they began their search to find which was the east 
and which the west. They recalled to mind that their 
superior official had once said, " If you wish to find the east, 
stand with your eyes towards the north, and you will find what 
you want on your right hand." They began to seek the north, 
and placed themselves first in one position, then in another, 
and tried all quarters of the compass in turn, but as they had 
spent their whole lives in the registry office, they could decide 
on nothing. 

"This is what we must do, your Excellency; do you go to 
the right, and I will go to the left; that will be better," said 
the General, who besides serving in the registry office had also 
served as instructor of calligraphy in the school for soldiers' 
sons, and consequently had more sense. 

So said, so done. One General went to the right, and 
saw trees growing, and on the trees all sorts of fruits. The 
General tried to get an apple, but all the apples grew so high 
that it was necessary to climb for them. He tried to climb, but 
with no result, except that he tore his shirt to rags. The Gen- 
eral came to a stream, the fish were swimming there in swarms, 
as though in a fish-shop on the Fontanka canal. "If we only 
had such fish in Pettifoggers Street!" said the General to 
himself, and he even changed countenance with hunger. 

The General entered the forest, and there hazel-hens were 
whistling, blackcocks were holding their bragging matches, 
and hares were running. 

"Heavens! What victuals! What victuals!" said the 
General, and he felt that he was becoming fairly sick at his 
stomach with hunger. 

There was nothing to be done; he was obliged to return to 
the appointed place with empty hands. He reached it but 
the other General was already waiting for him. 

"Well, your Excellency, have you accomplished any- 
thing? " 

"Yes, I have found an old copy of the 'Moscow News'; 
that is all." 

The Generals lay down to sleep again, but gnawing hunger 
kept them awake. They were disturbed by speculations as to 

244 Russian Literature 

who would receive their pension for them; then they recalled 
the fruits, fish, hazel-hens, blackcock, and hares which they 
had seen that day. 

"Who would have thought, your Excellency, that human 
food, in its original shape, flies, swims, and grows on trees? " 
said one General. 

"Yes," replied the other General; "I must confess that 
until this day I thought that wheaten rolls came into exist- 
ence in just the form in which they are served to us in the 
morning with our coffee." 

" It must be that, for instance, if one desires to eat a part- 
ridge, he must first catch it, kill it, pluck it, roast it 

But how is all that done? " 

"How is all that done?" repeated the other General, like 
an echo. They fell into silence, and tried to get to sleep; but 
hunger effectually banished sleep. Hazel-hens, turkeys, suck- 
ing-pigs flitted before their eyes, rosy, veiled in a slight blush of 
roasting, surrounded with cucumbers, pickles, and other salads. 

" It seems to me that I could eat my own boots now!" said 
one General. 

" Gloves are good also, when they have been worn a long 
time!" sighed the other General. 

All at once the Generals glanced at each other; an ominous 
fire glowed in their eyes, their teeth gnashed, a dull roar forced 
its way from their breasts. They began slowly to crawl toward 
each other, and in the twinkling of an eye they were exas- 
perated to fury. Tufts of hair flew about, whines and groans 
resounded; the General who had been a teacher of calligraphy 
bit off his adversary's Order, and immediately swallowed it. 
But the sight of flowing blood seemed to restore them to their 

" The power of the cross defend us!" they exclaimed simul- 
taneously; "if we go on like this we shall eat each other!" 

"And how did we get here? What malefactor has played 
us this trick?" 

"We must divert our minds with some sort of conversa- 
tion, your Excellency, or there will be murder!" said the other 

Seventh Period 245 

" Begin!" replied the other General. 

"Well, for instance, what do you think about this, Why- 
does the sun rise first and then set, instead of acting the other 
way about?" 

"You are a queer man, your Excellency; don't you rise 
first, then go to the office, write there, and afterward go to bed?" 

" But why not admit this reversal of the order; first I go to 
bed, have divers dreams, and then rise?" 

" Hm, yes But I must confess that when I served in 

the department I always reasoned in this fashion: now it is 
morning, then it will be day, then supper will be served, and 
it will be time to go to bed." 

But the mention of supper plunged them both into grief, 
and broke the conversation off short at the very beginning. 

" I have heard a doctor say that a man can live for a long 
time on his own juices," began one of the Generals. 

"Is that so?" 

"Yes, sir, it is; it appears that the juices proper produce 
other juices; these in their turn, engender still other juices, 
and so on, until at last the juices cease altogether. ..." 

"What then?" 

" Then it is necessary to take some sort of nourishment " 


In short, no matter what topic of conversation the Generals 
started, it led inevitably to a mention of food, and this excited 
their appetites still more. They decided to cease their con- 
versation, and calling to mind the copy of the " Moscow News " 
which they had found, they began to read it with avidity. 

" Yesterday," read one General, with a quivering voice, 
" the respected governor of our ancient capital gave a grand 
dinner. The table was set for one hundred persons, with won- 
derful luxury. The gifts of all lands seemed to have appointed 
a rendezvous at this magical feast. There was the golden 
sterlet of the Sheksna, the pheasant, nursling of the Caucasian 
forests, and strawberries, that great rarity in our north in the 
month of February " 

"Tfu, heavens! Cannot your Excellency find some other 
subject?" cried the other General in desperation, and taking the 

246 Russian Literature 

newspaper from his companion's hand, he read the follow- 
ing: "A correspondent writes to us from Tula: 'There was a 
festival here yesterday at the club, on the occasion of a sturgeon 
being caught in the river Upd (an occurrence which not even 
old residents can recall, the more so as private Warden B. was 
recognized in the sturgeon). The author of the festival was 
brought in on a huge wooden platter, surrounded with cucum- 
bers, and holding a bit of green in his mouth. Doctor P., who 
was on duty that day as presiding officer, saw to it carefully 
that each of the guests received a piece. The sauce was 
extremely varied, and even capricious " 

" Permit me, your Excellency, you also seem to be not 
sufficiently cautious in your choice of reading matter!" inter- 
rupted the first General, and taking the paper in his turn, he 
read: "A correspondent writes to us from Vidtka: ' One of the 
old residents here has invented the following original method 
of preparing fish soup: Take a live turbot, and whip him 
as a preliminary; when his liver has become swollen with 
rage.' . . . . " 

The Generals dropped their heads. Everything on which 
they turned their eyes — everything bore witness to food. Their" 
own thoughts conspired against them, for try as they would to 
banish the vision of beefsteak, this vision forced itself upon 

And all at once an idea struck the General who had been a 
teacher of calligraphy 

"How would it do, your Excellency," he said joyfully, "if 
we were to find a peasant?" 

"That is to say .... a muzhik?" 

" Yes, exactly, a common muzhik .... such as muzhiks 
generally are. He would immediately give us rolls, and he 
would catch hazel-hens and fish!" 

" Hm .... a peasant .... but where shall we find him, 
when he is not here?" 

"What do you mean by saying that he is not to be 
found? There are peasants everywhere, and all we have to 
do is to look him up! He is certainly hiding somewhere, 
about because he is too lazy to work!" This idea cheered 

Seventh Period 247 

the Generals to such a degree that they sprang to their feet 
like men who had received a shock, and set out to find a 

They roamed for a long time about the island without any 
success whatever, but at last the penetrating smell of bread- 
crust and sour sheepskin put them on the track. Under a tree, 
flat on his back, with his fists under his head, lay a huge 
peasant fast asleep, and shirking work in the most impudent 
manner. There were no bounds to the wrath of the Generals. 

"Asleep, lazybones! " and they flung themselves upon him; 
" and you don't move so much as an ear, when here are two 
Generals who have been dying of hunger these two days! 
March off, this moment, to work! " 

The man rose; he saw that the Generals were stern. He 
would have liked to give them the slip, but they had become 
fairly rigid when they grasped him. 

And he began to work under their supervision. 

First of all he climbed a tree and picked half a score of the 
ripest apples for the Generals, and took one, a sour one, for 
himself. Then he dug in the earth and got some potatoes; then 
he took two pieces of wood, rubbed them together, and produced 
fire. Then he made a snare from his own hair and caught a 
hazel-hen. Last of all, he arranged the fire, and cooked such a 
quantity of different provisions that the idea even occurred to 
the Generals, " would it not be well to give the lazy fellow a 
little morsel? " 

The Generals watched the peasant's efforts, and their hearts 
played merrily. They had already forgotten that they had 
nearly died of hunger on the preceding day, and they thought, 
" What a good thing it is to be a general — then you never go to 
destruction anywhere." 

"Are you satisfied, Generals?" asked the big, lazy peasant. 

"We are satisfied, my dear friend, we perceive your zeal," 
replied the Generals. 

"Will you not permit me to rest now? " 

" Rest, my good friend, only first make us a rope." 

The peasant immediately collected wild hemp, soaked it in 
water, beat it, worked it — and by evening the rope was done. 

248 Russian Literature 

With this rope the Generals bound the peasant to a tree so 
that he should not run away, and then they lay down to sleep. 

One day passed, then another; the big, coarse peasant 
became so skilful that he even began to cook soup in the 
hollow of his hand. Our Generals became jovial, light-hearted, 
fat, and white. They began to say to each other that, here 
they were living with everything ready to hand while their 
pensions were accumulating and accumulating in Petersburg. 

"What do you think, your Excellency, was there really a 
tower of Babel, or is that merely a fable?" one General 
would say to the other, as they ate their breakfast. 

" I think, your Excellency, that it really was built; because, 
otherwise, how can we explain the fact that many different 
languages exist in the world?" 

" Then the flood must have occurred also? " 

" The flood did happen, otherwise, how could the existence 
of antediluvian animals be explained? The more so as it is 
announced in the ' Moscow News '...." 

"Shall we not read the ' Moscow News'? 

Then they would hunt up that copy, seat themselves in the 
shade, and read it through from end to end; what people had 
been eating in Moscow, eating in Tula, eating in Penza, eating 
in Ryazdn — and it had no effect on them; it did not turn their 

In the long run, the Generals got bored. They began to 
refer more and more frequently to the cooks whom they had 
left behind them in Petersburg, and they even wept, on the sly. 

" What is going on now in Pettifoggers Street, your Excel- 
lency?" one General asked the other. 

"Don't allude to it, your Excellency! My whole heart is 
sore!" replied the other General. 

" It is pleasant here, very pleasant — there are no words to 
describe it; but still, it is awkward for us to be all alone, isn't 
it? And I regret my uniform also." 

"Of course you do! Especially as it is of the fourth class,* 

so that it makes you dizzy to gaze at the embroidery alone! " 

*This refers to the Table of Ranks, established by Peter the Great. 
The fourth class of officials from the top of the ladder, have attained a very 
respectable amount of embroidery, dignity, and social position. 

Seventh Period 249 

Then they began to urge the peasant: Take them, take 
them to Pettifoggers Street! And behold! The peasant, it ap- 
peared, even knew all about Pettifoggers Street; had been there; 
his mouth had watered at it, but he had not had a taste of it! 

"And we are Generals from Pettifoggers Street, you 
know!" cried the Generals joyfully. 

"And I, also, if you had only observed; a man hangs out- 
side a house, in a box, from a rope, and washes the wall with 
color, or walks on the roof like a fly. I am that man," replied 
the peasant. 

And the peasant began to cut capers, as though to amuse 
his Generals, because they had been kind to him, an idle 
sluggard, and had not scorned his peasant toil. And he built 
a ship — not a ship exactly, but a boat — so that they could sail 
across the ocean-sea, up to Pettifoggers Street. 

"But look to it, you rascal, that you don't drown us!" said 
the Generals, when they saw the craft pitching on the waves. 

"Be easy, Generals, this is not my first experience," replied 
the peasant, and began to make preparations for departure. 

The peasant collected soft swansdown, and lined the bot- 
tom of the boat with it; having done this, he placed the 
Generals on the bottom, made the sign of the cross over them, 
and set sail. The pen cannot describe, neither can the tongue 
relate, what terror the Generals suffered during their journey, 
from storms and divers winds. But the peasant kept on row- 
ing and rowing, and fed the Generals on herrings. 

At last, behold Mother Neva, and the splendid Katherine 
Canal, and great Pettifoggers Street! The cook-maids clasped 
their hands in amazement at the sight of their Generals, so fat, 
white, and merry! The Generals drank their coffee, ate rolls 
made with milk, eggs, and butter, and put on their uniforms. 
Then they went to the treasury, and the pen cannot describe, 
neither can the tongue relate, how much money they received 

But they did not forget the peasant; they sent him a wine- 
glass of vodka and a silver five-kopek piece * " Make merry, 
big, coarse peasant! " 

♦About two cents and a half. 

250 Russian Literature 

While Turg£neff represented the "western" and liberal 
element (with a tinge of the "red") in the school of the 
'40's, and Gontcharoff stood for the bourgeois and oppor- 
tunist ideals of the St. Petersburg bureaucrats, Count 
Lyeff Nikolaevitch Tolstoy penetrated more profoundly 
into the depths of the spirit of the times than any other 
writer of the period in the matter of analysis and skepti- 
cism which characterized that school, and carried them to 
the extremes of pitiless logic and radicalness, approaching 
more closely than any other to democratic and national 
ideals. But notwithstanding all his genius, Count Tolstoy 
was not able to free himself to any great extent from his 
epoch, his environment, his contemporaries. His special 
talents merely caused him to find it impossible to reconcile 
himself to the state of affairs existing around him; and so, 
instead of progressing, he turned back and sought peace 
of mind and a firm doctrine in the distant past of primi- 
tive Christianity. Sincere as he undoubtedly is in his 
propaganda of self-simplification and self-perfection — one 
might almost call it "self-annihilation" — his new attitude 
has wrought great and most regrettable havoc with his 
later literary work, with some few exceptions. 

And yet, in pursuing this course, he did not strike out 
an entirely new path for himself; his youth was passed 
in an epoch when the ideal of personal perfection and self- 
surrender stood in the foreground, and constituted the 
very essence of Russian progress. 

Count L. N. Tolstoy was born on August 28, O. S., 
1828 (September 9th, N. S.), in the village of Yasnaya 
Polyana, in the government of Tula. His mother, born 
Princess Volkdnsky (Marya Nikolaevna), died before he 
was two years old, and his father's sister, Countess A. T. 

Seventh Period 251 

Osten-Saken, and a distant relative, Madame T. A. Ergol- 
sky, took charge of him. When he was nine years old 
the family removed to Moscow, and his father died soon 
afterwards. Lyeff Nikolaevitch, his brother Dmitry, and 
his sister Marya then returned to the country estate, while 
his elder brother Nikolai remained in Moscow with 
Countess Osten-Saken and studied at the University of 
Moscow. Three years later, the Countess Osten-Saken 
died, and another aunt on the father's side, Madame P. I. 
Yushkoff, who resided in Kazan, became their guardian. 
Lyeff Nikolaevitch went there to live, and in 1843 ne 
entered the University of Kazan in the philological course, 
but remained in it only one year, because the professor 
of history (who had quarreled with Tolstoy's relatives) 
gave him impossibly bad marks, in addition to which he 
received bad marks from the professor of German, 
although he was better acquainted with that language 
than any other member of his course. He was com- 
pelled to change to the law course, where he remained for 
two years. In 1848 he took the examination for "candi- 
date" in the University of St. Petersburg. "I knew liter- 
ally nothing," he says of himself, "and I literally began 
to prepare myself for the examination only one week in 
advance." He obtained his degree of candidate, or 
bachelor of arts, and returned to Yasnaya Polyana, where 
he lived until 185 1, when he entered the Forty-fourth 
Battery of the Twentieth Brigade of Artillery as 
"ytinker" or supernumerary officer, with no official rank, 
but eligible to receive a commission as ensign, and thence 
advance in the service. This battery was stationed on 
the Terek River, in the Caucasus, and there Tolstoy 
remained with it until the Crimean War broke out. 

252 Russian Literature 

Thus during the first twenty-six years of his life he spent 
less than five years in towns, the rest in the country; and 
this no doubt laid the foundation for his deep love for 
country life, which has had so profound an effect upon 
his writings and his views of existence in general. 

The dawning of his talent came during the four years 
he spent in the Caucasus, and he wrote "Childhood," 
"The Incursion, " "Boyhood," "The Morning of a 
Landed Proprietor," and "The Cossacks." During the 
Turkish campaign he was ordered to the staff of Prince 
M. D. Gortchakoff, on the Danube, and in 1855 received 
the command of a mountain battery, and took part in the 
fight at Tchernaya, and the siege of Sevastopol. The 
literary fruits of this experience were "Sevastopol," in 
December, May, and August, three sketches. 

It is convenient to finish his statistical history at this 
point with the statement that in 1862 he married, having 
firmly resolved, two years previously, that he never would 
do so, and clinched the bargain with himself by selling the 
big manor-house at Yasnaya Polyana for transportation 
and re-erection elsewhere. Between that date and 1888 
he had a family of fifteen * children, of whom seven are 
still alive. 

In his very first efforts in literature we detect certain 
characteristics which continue to distinguish him through- 
out his career, and some of which, on attaining their legiti- 
mate and logical development seem, to the ordinary reader, 
to be of extremely recent origin. In "Childhood" and 
"Boyhood" ("Youth," the third section, was written late 

*I have seen the number variously stated at from eleven to thirteen; 
but Countess Sophia Andreevna, his wife, told me there had been fifteen, 
and I regard her as the final authority on this point, a very interesting one, 
in view of some of his latter-day theories and exhortations. Countess 
Tolstoy was the daughter of Dr. Behrs, of Moscow. 

Seventh Period 253 

in the 'SO's) we meet the same keen analysis which is a 
leading feature in his later works, and in them is applied 
with such effect to women and to the tender passion, 
neither of which elements enters into his early works in 
any appreciable degree. He displays the most astounding 
genius in detecting and understanding the most secret and 
trivial movements of the human soul. In this respect his 
methods are those of a miniature painter. Another point 
must be borne in mind in studying Tolstoy's characters, 
that, unlike Turgeneff, who is almost exclusively objective, 
Tolstoy is in the highest degree subjective, and has pre- 
sented a study of his own life and soul in almost every 
one of his works, in varying degrees, and combined with 
widely varying elements. In the same way he has made 
use of the spiritual and mental state of his relatives. For 
example, who can fail to recognize a self-portrait from the 
life in Levin ("Anna Karenin"), and in Prince Andrei 
Bolkonsky ("War and Peace")? And the feminine char- 
acters in these great novels are either simple or composite 
portraits of his nearest relations, while many of the inci- 
dents in both novels are taken straight from their experi- 
ence or his own, or the two combined. 

It is useless to catalogue his many works with their 
dates in this place. Unquestionably the finest of them 
(despite the author's present erroneous view, that they 
constitute a sin and a reproach to him) are his magnifi- 
cent "War and Peace" and "Anna Karenin." Curiously 
enough, neither met with prompt or enthusiastic welcome in 
Russia when they first made their appearance.* The 
public had grown used to the very different methods of 

*Turgeneff, who afterwards called Tolstoy "The Great Writer of the 
Russian Land," pronounced emphatically against him at this time; and so 
did many others, who became his enthusiastic admirers. 

254 Russian Literature 

the other celebrated romance-writers of the '40's, with 
whom we have already dealt. Gontcharoff had accustomed 
them to the delineation of character by broad, sweeping 
strokes; Dostoevsky to lancet-like thrusts, penetrating the 
very soul; Turgeneff to tender touches, which produced 
soft, melting outlines. It was long before they could 
reconcile themselves to Tolstoy's original mode of painting 
a vast series of miniature portraits on an immense canvas. 
But the effect of this procedure was at last recognized to 
be the very acme of throbbing, breathing life itself. 
Moreover, it became apparent that Tolstoy's theory of 
life was, that great generals, statesmen, and as a whole, 
all active persons who seem or try to control events, do 
nothing of the kind. Somewhere above, in the unknown, 
there is a power which guides affairs at its own will, and 
(here is the special point) deliberately thwarts all the 
efforts of the active people. According to his philosophy, 
the self-contained, thoroughly egotistical natures, who are 
wedded solely to the cult of success, generally pass through 
this earthly life without any notable disasters ; they attend 
strictly to their own selfish ends, and do not attempt to 
sway the destinies of others from motives of humanity, 
patriotism, or anything else in the lofty, self-sacrificing 
line. On the contrary, the fate of the people who are 
endowed with tender instincts, who have not allowed self- 
love to smother their humanity, who are guilty only of 
striving to attain some lofty, unselfish object in life, are 
thwarted and repressed, balked and confounded at every 
turn. This is particularly interesting in view of his latter- 
day exhortations to men, on the duty of toiling for others, 
sacrificing everything for others. Nevertheless, it must 
stand as a monument to the fidelity of his powers of 

Seventh Period 255 

analysis of life in general, and of the individual characters 
in whose lot he demonstrates his theory. 

This contrast between the two conflicting principles, a 
haughty individualism and peaceable submission to a 
higher power, of which the concrete representative is the 
mass of the population, is set forth with especial clearness 
in "War and Peace J' ' where the two principal heroes, 
Prince Andrei Bolkonsky and Pierre Bezukoff, represent 

In "Anna Karenin," in the person of his favorite hero, 
Konstantin Levin, Tolstoy first enunciates the doctrine of 
moral regeneration acquired by means of physical labor, 
and his later philosophical doctrines are the direct develop- 
ment of the views there set forth. He had represented a 
hero of much earlier days, Prince Nekhliudoff, in "The 
Morning of a Landed Proprietor, ' ' as convinced that he 
should make himself of use to his peasants; and he had 
set forth the result of those efforts in terms which tally 
wonderfully well with his direct personal comments in 
"My Confession," of a date long posterior to "Anna 
Karenin." "Have my peasants become any the richer?" 
he writes; "have they been educated or developed mor- 
ally? Not in the slightest degree. They are no better 
off, and my heart grows more heavy with every passing 
day. If I could but perceive any success in my under- 
taking; if I could descry any gratitude — but no; I see 
false routine, vice, distrust, helplessness! I am wasting 
the best years of my life in vain." 

But Nekhliudoff — Tolstoy was not alone in devoting 
himself to his peasants; before he withdrew to the country 
he had led a gay life in St. Petersburg, after resigning 
from the army, and in writing his fine peasant story, 

256 Russian Literature 

"Polikiishka, " setting up peasant-schools on his estate, 
and the like, he was merely paying his tribute to the spirit 
of the time (which reached him even in his seclusion), and 
imitating the innumerable village schools and Sunday 
schools in the capitals (for secular instruction of the labor- 
ing classes who were too busy for education during the 
week) in which the aristocratic and' educated classes in 
general took a lively interest.* But the leisure afforded 
by country life enabled him to compose his masterpieces. 
"War and Peace," which was begun in 1864, was pub- 
lished serially in "The Russian Messenger," beginning in 
1865, an d in book form in 1869, and "Anna Karenin," 
which was published serially in the same journal, in 
1 875-1 876. His style is not to be compared to that of 
Turgeneff, with its exquisite harmony, art, and sense of 
proportion. Tolstoy writes carelessly, frequently repeats 
himself, not infrequently expresses himself ambiguously 
or obscurely. But the supreme effect is produced, never- 

At last came the diametrical change of views, appar- 
ently, which led to this supreme artist's discarding his art, 
and devoting himself to religious and philosophical writ- 
ings for which neither nature nor his training had fitted 
him. He himself dates this change from the middle of 
the '70's, and it must be noted that precisely at this period 
that strong movement called "going to the people," i. e., 
devoting one's self to the welfare of the peasants, became 
epidemic in Russian society. Again, as fifteen or twenty 
years previously, Count Tolstoy was merely swept onward 
by the popular current. But his first pamphlet on his new 

* At this period, also, the peasant costume became the fashion in the 
higher circles. Count Tolstoy is generally (out of Russia) assumed to be 
the first and only wearer of such garments. 

Seventh Period 


propaganda is ten years later than the date he assigns to 
the change. Thereafter for many years he devoted his 
chief efforts to this new class of work, "Life," "What 
Is to Be Done?" "My Confession," and so forth, being 
the more bulky outcome. Some of the stories, written 
for the people during this interval, are delightful, both in 
tone and artistic qualities. Others are surcharged with 
"morals," which in many cases either directly conflict 
with the moral of other stories in the same volume, or 
even with the secondary moral of the same story. Even 
his last work — "in my former style," as he described it — 
"Resurrection," has special doctrines and aims too 
emphatically insisted upon to permit of the reader deriv- 
ing from it the pure literary pleasure, afforded by his 
masterpieces. In short, with all due respect to the entire 
sincerity of this magnificent writer, it must be said that 
those who would enjoy and appreciate him rightly, should 
ignore his philosophico-religious treatises, which are con- 
tradictory and confusing to the last degree. As an illus- 
tration, let me cite the case of the famine in Russia of 
1891-92. Great sums of money* were sent to Count 
Tolstoy, chiefly from America, and were expended by 
him in the most practicable and irreproachable manner — 
so any one would have supposed — for the relief of the 
starving peasants. Count Tolstoy and his assistants lived 
the life of the peasants, and underwent severe hardships; 
the Count even fell ill, and his wife was obliged to go to 
him and nurse him. It would seem that his conscience 

*This is a particularly interesting example to the people of America and 
to me. 1 sent to Count Tolstoy over seven thousand dollars which people 
throughout the length and breadth of the land had forwarded to me for that 
purpose, and 1 turned thousands more in his direction. His conscience is as 
uneasy and as fitful and illogical in pretty nearly all other matters, which is 
a pity, because it is both lively and sincere, though mistaken. 

258 Russian Literature 

had no cause for reproach, and that the situation was an 
ideal one for him. But before that famine was well over, 
or the funds expended, he wrote a letter to a London 
newspaper, in which he declared that helping people by 
means of money was all wrong — positively a sin. He felt 
that collecting and distributing money was not the best 
thing of which he was capable, and called it "making a 
pipe of one's self," personal service with brains, heart, and 
muscles being the only right service for God or man. 
This service he certainly rendered, and without the money 
he could not have rendered it. 

Nothing could more perfectly illustrate this point of 
view than the following little story, written in 188 1, called 
"The Two Brothers and the Gold." 

"In ancient times there lived not far from Jerusalem two 
brothers, the elder Afanasy, the younger Ioann. They dwelt 
on a hill not far from the town, and subsisted on what people 
gave them. Every day the brothers spent in work. They did 
not toil at their own work, but at the work of the poor. Wher- 
ever there were men overwhelmed with work, wherever there 
were sick people, orphans and widows, thither went the broth- 
ers, and there they toiled and nursed the people, accepting no 
remuneration. In this wise did the brothers pass the whole 
week apart, and met only onJSaturday evening in their abode. 
Only on Sunday did they remain at home, praying and chatting 
together. And the angel of the Lord descended to them and 
blessed them. On Monday they parted and each went his way. 
Thus the two brothers lived for many years, and every week 
the angel of the Lord came down and blessed them. 

One Monday as the brothers were starting out to work, and 
had already separated, going in different directions, Afanasy 
felt sorry to part with his beloved brother, and halted and 
glanced back. Ioann was walking, with head bowed, in his 
own direction, and did not look back. But all of a sudden, 
Ioann also halted, and as though catching sight of something, 

Seventh Period 259 

began to gaze intently in that direction, shading his eyes 
with his hand. Then he approached what he had espied there, 
suddenly leaped to one side, and without looking behind him 
fled down the hill and up the hill, away from the spot, as 
though a fierce wild beast were pursuing him. Afanasy was 
amazed and went back to the place in order to find out what 
had so frightened his brother. As he came near he beheld 
something gleaming in the sunlight. He approached closer. 
On the grass, as though poured out of a measure, lay a heap of 

gold And Afanasy was the more amazed, both at the 

gold, and at his brother's leap. 

"What was he frightened at, and what did he flee from?" 
said Afanasy to himself. "There is no sin in gold, the sin is 
in man. One can do evil with gold, but one can also do good 
with it. How many orphans and widows can be fed, how many 
naked men clothed, how many poor and sick healed with this 
gold. We now serve people, but our service is small, accord- 
ing to the smallness of our strength, but with this gold we can 
serve people more." Afanasy reasoned thus with himself, and 
wished to tell it all to his brother, but Ioann had gone off out 
of earshot, and was now visible on the opposite mountain, no 
bigger than a beetle. 

And Afanasy took of his garment, raked into it as much 
gold as he was able to carry, flung it on his shoulders and car- 
ried it to the city. He came to the inn, gave the gold over to 
the innkeeper, and went back after the remainder. And when 
he had brought all the gold he went to the merchants, bought 
land in the town, bought stone and timber, hired workmen, 
and began to build three houses. And Afandsy dwelt three 
months in the town and built three houses in the town, one 
house, an asylum for widows and orphans, another house, a 
hospital for the sick and the needy, a third house for pilgrims 
and paupers. And Afanasy sought out three pious old men, 
and he placed one over the asylum, another over the hospital, 
and the third over the hostelry for pilgrims. And Afanasy had 
three thousand gold pieces left. And he gave a thousand to 
each old man to distribute to the poor. And people began to 
fill all three houses, and men began to laud Afanasy for what 

260 Russian Literature 

he had done. And Afanasy rejoiced thereat so that he did not 
wish to leave the city. But Afanasy loved his brother, and 
bidding the people farewell, and keeping not a single gold 
piece for himself, he went back to his abode in the same old 
garment in which he had quitted it. 

Afanasy came to his mountain and said to himself, "My 
brother judged wrongly when he sprang away from the gold 
and fled from it. Have not I done better?" 

And no sooner had Afanasy thought this, than suddenly he 
beheld, standing in his path and gazing sternly at him, that 
angel who had been wont to bless them. And Afanasy was 
stupefied with amazement and could utter only, "Why is this, 
Lord?" And the angel opened his mouth and said, " Get thee 
hence! Thou art not worthy to dwell with thy brother. Thy 
brother's one leap is more precious than all the deeds which 
thou hast done with thy gold." 

And Afanasy began to tell of how many paupers and wan- 
derers he had fed, how many orphans he had cared for, and 
the angel said to him, "That devil who placed the gold there 
to seduce thee hath also taught thee these words." 

And then did Afanasy's conscience convict him, and he 
understood that he had not done his deeds for the sake of God, 
and he fell to weeping, and began to repent. Then the angel 
stepped aside, and left open to him the way, on which Ioann was 
already standing awaiting his brother, and from that time forth 
Afanasy yielded no more to the temptation of the devil who 
had poured out the gold, and knew that not by gold, but only 
by labor, can one serve God and men. 

And the brothers began to live as before.* 

Unfortunately, the best of Tolstoy's peasant stories, 
such as " Polikiishka, " "Two Old Men" (the latter 
belonging to the recent hortatory period), and the like, 
are too long for reproduction here. But the moral of the 
following, "Little Girls Wiser than Old Men," is irre- 


* It was to this sort ot story that Count Tolstoy referred, when he tolc 
that Lyeskoff had spoiled his talent of recent years by imitating him 

Seventh Period 261 

proachable, and the style is the same as in the more 
important of those written expressly for the people. 

Easter fell early that year. People had only just ceased to 
use sledges. The snow still lay in the cottage yards, but rivu- 
lets were flowing through the village; a big puddle had formed 
between the cottages, from the dung-heaps, and two little 
girls, from different cottages, met by this puddle — one younger, 
the other older. Both little girls had been dressed in new 
frocks by their mothers. The little one's frock was blue, the 
big one's yellow, with a flowered pattern. Both had red ker- 
chiefs bound about their heads. The little girls came out to 
the puddle, after the morning service in church, displayed 
their clothes to each other, and began to play. And the fancy 
seized them to paddle in the water. The younger girl was on 
the point of wading into the pool with her shoes on, but the 
elder girl says, "Don't go Malasha, thy mother will scold. 
Come, I'll take off my shoes, and do thou take off thine." The 
little lasses took off their shoes, tucked up their frocks and 
waded into the puddle, to meet each other. Malasha went in 
up to her knees, and says, " It's deep, Akuliushka — I'm afraid " 
"Never mind," says she; "it won't get any deeper. Come 
straight towards me." They began to approach each other, 
and Akiilka says, " Look out, Malasha, don't splash, but walk 
quietly." No sooner had she spoken, than Malasha set her 
foot down with a bang in the water, and a splash fell straight 
on Akulka's frock. The sarafan was splashed, and some of it 
fell on her nose and in her eyes as well. Akulka saw the spot 
on her frock, got angry at Malasha, stormed, ran after her, and 
wanted to beat her. Malasha was frightened when she saw the 
mischief she had done, leaped out of the puddle, and ran home. 
Akulka's mother came along, espied the splashed frock and 
spattered chemise on her daughter. " Where didst thou soil 
thyself, thou hussy? " " Maldsha splashed me on purpose." 
Akulka's mother seized Malasha, and struck her on the nape of 
the neck. Maldsha shrieked so that the whole street heard 
her. Malasha's mother came out. "What art thou beating my 
child for? " The neighbor began to rail. One word led to 

262 Russian Literature 

another, the women scolded each other. The peasant men ran 
forth, a big crowd assembled in the street. Everybody shouted, 
nobody listened to anybody else. They scolded and scolded, 
One gave another a punch, and a regular fight was imminent, 
when an old woman, Akulka's grandmother, interposed. She 
advanced into the midst of the peasants, and began to argue 
with them. "What are you about, my good men? Is this the 
season for such things? We ought to be joyful, but you have 
brought about a great sin." They paid no heed to the old 
woman, and almost knocked one another down, and the old 
woman would not have been able to dissuade them had it not 
been for Akulka and Malasha. While the women were wrang- 
ling, Akulka wiped off her frock, and went out again to the 
puddle in the space between the cottages. She picked up a 
small stone and began to dig the earth out at the edge of the 
puddle, so as to let the water out into the street. While she 
was digging away, Maldsha came up also, and began to help 
her by drawing the water down the ditch with a chip. The 
peasant men had just come to blows, when the little girls had 
got the water along the ditch to the street, directly at the spot 
where the old woman was parting the men. 

The little girls came running up, one on one side, the other 
on the other side of the rivulet. " Hold on, Malasha, hold on ! " 
cried Akulka. Malasha also tried to say something, but could 
not speak for laughing. 

The little girls ran thus, laughing at the chip, as it floated 
down the stream. And they ran straight into the midst of the 
peasant men. The old woman perceived them, and said to the 
men, " Fear God ! Here you have begun to fight over these 
same little girls, and they have forgotten all about it long ago. 
and are playing together again in love — the dear little things. 
They are wiser than you !" 

The men looked at the little girls, and felt ashamed of 
themselves ; and then the peasants began to laugh at them- 
selves, and went off to their houses. 

" Except ye become as little children, ye shall not enter the 
kingdom of heaven." 

Seventh Period 263 

It is a pity that Count Tolstoy, the greatest literary 
genius of his time, should put his immense talent to such 
a use as to provoke, on his contradictions of himself, 
comment like the following, which is quoted from a work 
by V. S. Solovieff, an essayist and argumentative writer, 
who quotes some one on this subject, to this effect: 

" Sometimes we hear that the most important truth is in the 
Sermon on the Mount ; then again, we are told that we must 
till the soil in the sweat of our brows, though there is nothing 
about that in the Gospels, but in Genesis — in the same place 
where giving birth in pain is mentioned, but that is no com- 
mandment at all, only a sad fate ; sometimes we are told that 
we ought to give everything away to the poor; and then again, 
that we never ought to give anything to anybody, as money is 
an evil, and one ought not to harm other people, but only one's 
self and one's family, but that we ought to work for others ; 
sometimes we are told that the vocation of women is to bear as 
many healthy children as possible, and then, the celibate ideal 
is held up for men and women ; then again, eating no meat is 
the first step towards self-perfection, though why no one knows; 
then something is said against liquor and tobacco, then against 
pancakes, then against military service as if it were the worst 
thing on earth, and as if the primary duty of a Christian were 
to refuse to be a soldier, which would prove that he who is not 
taken into service, for any reason, is already holy enough." 

This may be a trifle exaggerated, but it indicates clearly 
enough the utter confusion which the teachings of Count 
Tolstoy produce on ordinary, rational, well-meaning per- 
sons.* In short, he should be judged in his proper sphere 
as one of the most gifted authors of any age or country, 
and judged by his legitimate works in his legitimate prov- 
ince, the novel, as exemplified by "War and Peace" and 
"Anna Karenin." 

*I have stated my own theory as to Count Tolstoy's incessant changes 
of view, and his puzzling inconsistencies, in my "Russian Rambles." It is 
not necessary or pitting that I should repeat it here. 

264 Russian Literature 

The reform movement of the '6o's of the nineteenth 
century ended in a reaction which took possession of soci- 
ety as a whole during the '70's. Apathy, dejection, 
disenchantment superseded the previous exultation and 
enthusiastic impulse to push forward in all directions. 
Dull discontent and irritation reigned in all classes of 
society and in all parties. Some were discontented 
with the reforms, regarding them as premature, and 
even ruinous; others, on the contrary, deemed them 
insufficient, curtailed, only half-satisfactory to the needs 
of the country, and merely exasperating to the public 

These conditions created a special sort of literary 
school, which made its appearance in the middle of the 
'70's, and attained its complete development in the middle 
of the '8o's. We have seen that the same sort of thing 
had taken place with every previous change in the public 
sentiment. The first thing which impresses one in this 
school is the resurrection of artistic feeling, a 'passion for 
beauty of imagery and forms, a careful and extremely 
elegant polish imparted to literary productions in tech- 
nique. None of the authoritative and influential critics 
preached the cult of pure art. Yet Garshin, the most 
promising of the young authors of the day, who was the 
very last person to be suspected of that cult, finished his 
works with the utmost care, so that in elegance of form 
and language they offer an example of faultless perfection. 
There can be no doubt that this renaissance of the artistic 
element of poetry, of beauty, was closely connected with 
the subsidence of the flood-tide of public excitement and 
agitation, which up to that time had carried writers along 
with it into its whirlpools, and granted them neither the 

Seventh Period 265 

time nor the desire to polish and adorn their works, and 
revel in beauty of forms. 

Vsevolod Mikhailovitch Garshin, the son of a petty 
landed proprietor in the south of Russia, was born in 
1855. Despite his repeated attacks of profound melan- 
cholia, which sometimes passed into actual insanity, and 
despite the brevity of his career (he flung himself down 
stairs in a fit of this sort and died, in 1889), he made a 
distinct and brilliant mark in Russian literature. 

Garshin' s view of people in general was thus expressed: 
"All the people whom I have known," he says, "are 
divided (along with other divisions of which, of course, 
there are many: the clever men and the fools, the Ham- 
lets and the Don Quixotes, the lazy and the active, and so 
forth) into two categories, or to speak more accurately, 
they are distributed between two extremes: some are 
endowed, so to speak, with a good self-consciousness, 
while the others have a bad self-consciousness. One man 
lives and enjoys all his sensations; if he eats he rejoices, 
if he looks at the sky he rejoices. In short, for such a 
man, the mere process of living is happiness. But it is 
quite the reverse with the other sort of man; you may 
plate him with gold, and he will continue to grumble; 
nothing satisfies him; success in life affords him no pleas- 
ure, even if it be perfectly self-evident. The man simply 
is incapable of experiencing satisfaction; he is incapable, 
and that is the end of the matter.' ' And in view of his 
personal disabilities, it is not remarkable that all his heroes 
should have belonged to the latter category, in a greater 
or less degree, some of the incidents narrated being drawn 
directly from his own experiences. Such are "The Red 
Flower, ' ' his best story, which presents the hallucinations 

266 Russian Literature 

of a madman, "The Coward," "Night," "Attalea Prin- 
ceps," and "That Which Never Happened." On the 
other hand, the following have no personal element: "The 
Meeting," "The Orderly and the Officer," "The Diary 
of Soldier Ivanoff," "The Bears," "Nadezhda Nikola- 
evna," and "Proud Aggei." 

Another writer who has won some fame, especially by 
his charming sketches of Siberian life, written during his 
exile in Siberia, is Grigory Alexandrovitch Matchtet, born 
in 1852. These sketches, such as "The Second Truth," 
"We Have Conquered," "A Worldly Affair," are both 
true to nature and artistic, and produce a deep impression. 

Much more talented and famous is Vladimir Gal- 
aktionovitch Korolenko (1853), a l so the author of fasci- 
nating Siberian sketches, and of a more ambitious work, 
"The Blind Musician." One point to be noted about 
Korolenko is that he never joined the pessimists, or the 
party which professed pseudo-peasant tendencies, and 
followed Count L. N. Tolstoy's ideas, but has always 
preserved his independence. His first work, a delightful 
fantasy, entitled "Makar's Dream, " appeared in 1885. 
Korolenko has been sent to Siberia several times, but now 
lives in Russia proper,* and publishes a high-class monthly 

Until quite recently opinion was divided as to whether 
Korolenko or Tchekoff was the more talented, and the 
coming "great author." As we shall see presently, that 
question seems to have been settled, and in part by 
Korolenko 's friendly aid, in favor of quite another person. 

*I tried to see him in Nizhni Novgorod, but although he was still under 
police surveillance, the police could not tell me where to find him, and I 
obtained the information from a photographer friend of his. Unfortunately, 
he was then in the Crimea, gathering " material." 

Seventh Period 267 

Anton Pavlovitch Tchekoff (pseudonym "Tchek- 
honte," i860) is the descendant of a serf father and 
grandfather. His volumes of short stories, "Humor- 
ous Tales," "In the Gloaming," "Surly People," are full 
of humor and of brilliant wit. His more ambitious efforts, 
as to length and artistic qualities, the productions of his 
matured talent, are "The Steppe," "Fires," "A Tire- 
some History, " " Notes of an Unknown, " " The Peasant, ' ' 
and so forth. 

Still another extremely talented writer, who, unfortu- 
nately, has begun to produce too rapidly for his own 
interest, is Ignaty Nikolaevitch Potapenko (1856), the 
son of an officer in a Uhlan regiment, and of a Little 
Russian peasant mother. His father afterwards became 
a priest — a veiy unusual change of vocation and class — 
and the future writer acquired intimate knowledge of views 
and customs in ecclesiastical circles, which he put to bril- 
liant use later on. A delicate humor is the characteristic 
feature of his work, as can be seen in his best writings, 
such as "On Active Service"* and "The Secretary of 
His Grace (the Bishop)." 

The former is the story of a talented and devoted young 
priest, who might have obtained an easy position in the 
town, among the bishop's officials, with certain prospect 
of swift promotion. He resolutely declines this position, 
and requests that he may be assigned to a village parish, 
where he can be "on active service." Every one regards 
the request as a sign of an unsettled mind. After much 
argument he prevails on his betrothed bride's parents to 
permit the marriage (he cannot be ordained until he is 

* Translated into English under the title " A Russian Priest." Another 
volume contains two charming stories from the same circle, "A Father of 
Six" and " An Occasional Holiday." 

268 Russian Literature 

married), and hopes to find a helpmeet in her. The rest 
of the story deals with his experiences in the unenviable 
position of a village priest, where he has to contend not 
only with the displeasure of his young wife, but with the 
avarice of his church staff, the defects of the peasants, 
the excess of attention of the local gentlewoman, and 
financial problems of the most trying description. It ends 
in his wife abandoning him, and returning with her child 
to her father's house, while he insists on remaining at his 
post, where, as events have abundantly proved, the minis- 
trations of a truly disinterested, devout priest are most 
sadly needed. It is impossible to convey by description 
the charm and gentle humor of this book. 

But acclaimed on all sides, by all classes of society, 
as the most talented writer of the present day, is the 
young man who writes under the name of Maxim Gorky 
(Bitter). The majority of the critics confidently predict 
that he is the long-expected successor of Count L. N. 
Tolstoy. This gifted man, who at one stroke, conquered 
for himself all Russia which reads, whose books sell with 
unprecedented rapidity, whose name passes from mouth 
to mouth of millions, wherever intellectual life glows, and 
has won an unnumbered host of enthusiastic admirers all 
over the world, came up from the depths of the populace. 

"Gorky" Alexei Maximovitch Pyeshkdff was born in 
Nizhni Novgorod in 1868 or 1869. Socially, he belongs 
to the petty burgher class, but his grandfather, on the 
paternal side, was reduced from an officer to the ranks, by 
the Emperor Nicholas I., for harsh treatment of the sol- 
diers under his command. He was such a rough character 
that his son (the author's father) ran away from home 
five times in the course of seven years, and definitively 

Seventh Period 269 

parted from his uncongenial family at the age of seven- 
teen, when he went afoot from Tobolsk to Nizhni Novgo- 
rod, where he apprenticed himself to a paper-hanger. 
Later on he became the office-manager of a steamer com- 
pany in Astrakhan. His mother was the daughter of a 
man who began his career as a bargee on the Volga, one 
of the lowest class of men who, before the advent of 
steam, hauled the merchandise-laden barks from Astrakhan 
to Nizhni Novgorod, against the current. Afterwards he 
became a dyer of yarns, and eventually established a thriv- 
ing dyeing establishment in Nizhni. 

Gorky's father died of cholera at Astrakhan when the 
lad was four years old. His mother soon married again, 
and gave the boy to his grandfather, who had him taught 
to read and write, and then sent him to school, where he 
remained only five months. At the end of that time he 
caught smallpox, and his studies were never renewed. 
Meanwhile his mother died, and his grandfather was 
ruined financially, so Gorky, at nine years of age, became 
the "boy" in a shoeshop, where he spent two months, 
scalded his hands with cabbage soup, and was sent back 
to his grandfather. His relations treated him with hostil- 
ity or indifference, and on his recovery, apprenticed him 
to a draftsman, from whose harshness he promptly fled, 
and entered the shop of a painter of holy pictures. Next 
he became scullion on a river steamer, and the cook was 
the first to inculcate in him a love of reading and of good 
literature. Next he became gardener's boy; then tried 
to get an education at Kazan University, under the mis- 
taken impression that education was free. To keep from 
starving he became assistant in a bakery at three rubles a 
month; "the hardest work I ever tried," he says; sawed 

270 Russian Literature 

wood, carried heavy burdens, peddled apples on the 
wharf, and tried to commit suicide out of sheer want and 
misery.* "Konovaloff" and "Men with Pasts" f would 
seem to represent some of the experiences of this period, 
"Konovaloff" being regarded as one of his best stories. 
Then he went to Tzaritzyn, where he obtained employ- 
ment as watchman on a railway, was called back to Nizhni 
Novgorod for the conscription, but was not accepted as 
a soldier, such "holy" men not being wanted. He 
became a peddler of beer, then secretary to a lawyer, who 
exercised great influence on his education. But he felt 
out of place, and in 1890 went back to Tzaritzyn, then 
to the Don Province (of the Kazaks), to the Ukraina and 
Bessarabia, back along the southern shore of the Crimea 
to the Kuban, and thence to the Caucasus. The reader 
of his inimitable short stories can trace these peregrina- 
tions and the adventures incident to them. In Tiflis he 
worked in the railway shops, and in 1 892 printed his first 
literary effort, "Makar Tchiidra, " in a local newspaper, 
the "Kavkaz." In the following year, in Nizhni Novgo- 
rod, he made acquaintance with Korolenko, to whom he 
is indebted for getting into "great literature," and for 
sympathy and advice. When he published "Tchelkash," 
in 1893, his fate was settled. It is regarded as one of the 
purest gems of Russian literature. He immediately rose 
to honor, and all his writings since that time have appeared 
in the leading publications. Moreover, he is the most 
"fashionable" writer in the country. But he enjoys 
something more than mere popularity; he is deeply loved. 

*He must have been at Kazan about the time I was there; and I have 
often wondered if I saw him on the wharf, where I passed weary hours 
waiting for the steamer. 

fSee "Orloff and His Wife," in my translation, 1891. 

Seventh Period 271 

This is the result of the young artist's remarkable talent 
for painting absolutely living pictures of both persons and 
things. The many-sidedness of his genius — for he has 
more than talent — is shown, among other things, by the 
fact that he depicts with equal success landscapes, genre 
scenes, portraits of women. His episode of the singers 
in "Foma Gordyeeff" (pp. 217-227) is regarded by 
Russian critics as fully worthy of being compared with 
the scenes for which Turgeneff is renowned. His land- 
scape pictures are so beautiful that they cause a throb of 
pain. But, as is almost inevitable under the circum- 
stances, most of his stories have an element of coarseness, 
which sometimes repels. 

In general, his subject is "the uneasy man," who is 
striving after absolute freedom, after light and a lofty 
ideal, of which he can perceive the existence somewhere, 
though with all his efforts he cannot grasp it. We may 
assume that in this they represent Gorky himself. But 
although all his heroes are seeking the meaning of life, no 
two of them are alike. His characters, like his land- 
scapes, grip the heart, and once known, leave an inefface- 
able imprint. Although he propounds problems of life 
among various classes, he differs from the majority of 
people, in not regarding a full stomach as the panacea for 
the poor man. On the contrary (as in "Foma Gordyeeff," 
his most ambitious effort), he seems to regard precisely 
this as the cause of more ruin than the life of "the bare- 
foot brigade," the tramps and stepchildren of Dame For- 
tune, with whom he principally deals. His motto seems 
to be "Man shall not live by bread alone." And because 
Gorky bears this thought ever with him, in brain and 
heart, in nerves and his very marrow, his work possesses 

2J2 Russian Literature 

a strength which is almost terrifying, combined with a 
beauty as terrifying in its way. If he will but develop his 
immense genius instead of meddling with social and 
political questions, and getting into prison on that score 
with disheartening regularity, something incalculably great 
may be the outcome. It is said that he is now banished 
in polite exile to the Crimea. If he can be kept there or 
elsewhere out of mischief, the Russian government will 
again render the literature of its own country and of the 
world as great a service as it has already more than once 
rendered in the past, by similar means. 

In the '70's and '8o's Russian society was seized with 
a mania for writing poetry, and a countless throng of 
young poets made their appearance. No book sold so 
rapidly as a volume of verses. But very few of these 
aspirants to fame possessed any originality or serious 
worth. Poetry had advanced not a single step since the days 
of Nekrasoff and Shevtchenko, so far as national independ- 
ence was concerned. 

The most talented of the young poets of this period 
was Semen Yakovlevitch Nadson (1 862-1 887). His 
grandfather, a Jew who had joined the Russian Church, 
lived in Kieff. His father, a gifted man and a fine 
musician, died young. His mother, a Russian gentle- 
woman, died at the age of thirty-one, of consumption. 
At the age of sixteen, Nadson fell in love with a young 
girl, and began to write poetry. She died of quick con- 
sumption shortly afterwards. This grief affected'the young 
man's whole career, and many of his poems were inspired 
by it. He began to publish his poems while still in 
school, being already threatened with pulmonary trouble, 
on account of which he had been sent to the Caucasus at 

Seventh Period 273 

the expense of the government, where he spent a year. 
In 1882 he graduated from the military school, and was 
appointed an officer in a regiment stationed at Kronstadt. 
There he lived for two years, and some of his best poems 
belong to this epoch: "No, Easier 'Tis for Me to Think 
that Thou Art Dead," "Herostrat," "Dreams," "The 
Brilliant Hall Has Silent Grown," "All Hath Come to 
Pass," and so forth. He retired from the military ser- 
vice in 1883, being already in the grasp of consumption. 
His poems ran through ten editions during the five years 
which followed his death, and still continue to sell with 
equal rapidity, so remarkable is their popularity. He was 
an ideally poetical figure; moreover, he charms by his 
flowing, musical verse, by the enthralling elegance and 
grace of his poetical imagery, and genuine lyric inspira- 
tion. All his poetry is filled with quiet, meditative sad- 
ness. It is by the music of his verse and the tender tears 
of his feminine lyrism that Nadson penetrates the hearts 
of his readers. His masterpiece is "My Friend, My 
Brother," and this reflects the sentiment of all his work.* 
Here is the first verse: 

My friend, my brother, weary, suffering brother, 

Whoever thou may'st be, let not thy spirit fail; 

Let evil and injustice reign with sway supreme 

O'er all the tear-washed earth. 

Let the sacred ideal be shattered and dishonored; 

Let innocent blood flow in stream — 

Believe me, there cometh a time when Baal shall perish 

And love shall return to earth. 

Another very sincere, sympathetic, and genuine, though 
not great poet, also of Jewish race, is Semen Grigorie- 

*I do not attempt a metrical translation. Lines 1-3, 2-4, 5-7, 6-8, rhyme 
in pairs. 

274 Russian Literature 

vitch Frug ( 1 860-1 866), the son of a member of the 
Jewish agricultural colony in the government of Kherson. 
He, like Nadson, believes that good will triumph in the 
end, and is not in the least a pessimist. 

Quite the reverse are Nikolai Maximo vitch Vilenkin 
(who is better known by his pseudonym of "Minsky" 
from his native government), and Dmitry Sergieevitch 
Merezhkovsky (1865) who, as a poet, is generally bom- 
bastic. His novels are better. 

There are many other good, though not great, contem- 
porary writers in Russia, including several women. But 
they hardly come within the scope of this work (which 
does not aim at being encyclopedic), as neither their work 
nor their fame is likely to make its way to foreign readers 
who are unacquainted with the Russian language. For 
those who do read Russian there are several good hand- 
books of contemporary literature which will furnish all 
necessary information. 


1. How was Russia influenced by the romantic movement 
in western Europe? 

2. Describe the character of the romances of the first period 
of the fifties. 

3. What important historical works appeared at this time? 

4. What popular novels were written by Danilevsky? 

5. What were the chief works of Melnikoff, and why are 
they not likely to be translated into English? 

6. Describe the career and influence of Lyeskoff. 

7. Why was the fame of Markovitch's work short-lived? 

8. What difficulties did Uspensky encounter in his early 
attempts at writing? 

9. Describe the effect produced by his "Hard Labor" and 
" An Eccentric Master." 

Seventh Period 275 

10. What views of society did Zlatovratsky express in his 

11. Why did RyeshetnikofFs "The Inhabitants of Podli- 
povo" become widely popular? 

12. Give an account of the experiences of Saltykoff. 

13. How did he make use of the material gathered during 
his exile? 

14. How did his writings contribute some new words to the 
Russian language? 

15. W T hat qualities does he show in "The Story of How 
One Peasant Maintained Two Generals "? 

16. Give the chief events in the life of Tolstoy. 

17. What characteristics of style did he show in his earliest 

18. How is he "subjective" in delineating his characters? 

19. Why was his genius not at first appreciated? 

20. What was his theory of life? 

21. What change came into his life in the seventies? 

22. How did this affect his writings? 

23. How did his experience with famine sufferers affect his 

24. What were Garshin's views of people in general? 

25. How do his books bear out his theories? 

26. What facts in Korolenko's life have influenced his 
literary development? 

27. What characteristics does Tchekoff show in his short 

28. What is the story of Potdpenko's " On Active Service"? 

29. Give the leading events of Gorky's career. 

30. How is his many-sided genius shown? 

31. What ideals are expressed in his work? 

32. Why has Nadson's poetry such a firm hold on the 
popular mind? 


Danilevsky: Mirovitch. The Princess Tarakanova. 
Potdpenko: A Russian Priest. A Father of Six. An 
Occasional Holiday. 

276 Russian Literature 

Maxim Gorky: Orloff and His Wife. Foma Gordyeeff. 
(Translated by I. F. Hapgood.) 

L. N. Tolstoy: All of his works are available in English 
translations. There are several collections of his short stories. 

The Humor of Russia. (Selections.) E. L. Voynich. 

D. S. Merezhkovsky: The Death of the Gods. This is the 
first part of a trilogy, and is an historical novel of the time of 
Julian the Apostate. The other parts (announced for publica- 
tion) are: Resurrection (time of Leonardo da Vinci) and The 
Anti-Christ (time of Peter the Great.) 


Adasheff, 54, 56. 
Aksakoff, 141, 164. 
Alexander I., 91, 101, 102, 105. 
Archangel, 72. 
Astrakhan, 70, 227, 269. 

Baratynsky, 123. 
Barynya Sudarynya, 34. 
Batiushkoff , 106, 108. 
Bogdanovitch, 96, 97. 
Book of Degrees, 61. 
Book of Hours, 53, 59. 
Briuloff, 206. 
Bunin, 107. 

Byelinsky, 139, 141, 143, 161, 165, 204, 
213, 215. 

Caucasus, 251, 252, 270, 272. 

Danilevsky, 230. 

Dashkoff, 82. 

Decembrists, 201, 215. 

Delvig, 123. 

Derzhavin, 82, 90, 96, 100, 114. 

Dmitrieff, 92, 98, 105, 142. 

Dmitry, St. of Rostoff, 63, 64. 

Dmitry Donskoy (dmee-tree), 48. 

Dniepr (Neepr), 2, 41, 147, 159. 

Dolgoniky, 57. 

Domostroy, 51. 

Dostoevsky, 140, 161, 209, 212, 225, 254. 

Drevlyans, 41. 

Diiroff, 214, 215. 

Elizabeth, 68, 75, 76, 114. 230. 

Feodor (fay-o-dor), 47, 59. 
Feodorovna, 108, no, 206. 
Feodosiy, 40. 
Frug, 274. 

Galitzyn, 69. 
Garshin, 265. 
Glazatly, 56. 
Gogol, 140, 141, 146-159, 161, 165, 167, 

181, 189, 213, 215. 
Gontcharoff, 140, 161-63, 22 °, 22 3> 2 5°- 
Gorky, 268-272. 
Gregory, 63. 

Griboy6doff, 124, 128, 181. 
Grigorovitch, 140, 161, 163-64, 213. 

House Regulator, 51. 

Igor (egor), 41. 

fgor's Raid, 44. 

Ilarion, 39. 

Ioannovna, Anna, 69, 72, 75, 114. 

Irkutsk, 199. 

Ivan (e-vahn) the Terrible, 51. 

Kamarynskaya, 34. 

Kantemir, 68, 69. 84. 

Kapnist, 96. 

Karamzin (ka-ram-zeen), 92, 98, 102, 

106, 109, in, 115, 124, 229. 
Katherine II., 70, 77, 80, 82, 84, 85, 90, 

91, 96, 100, 102, 114. 
Kazan, 33, 52, 56, 97, 141, 251, 269. 
Khemnitzer, 96-100. 
Kheraskoff, 96, 97, 164. 
Kherson, 158, 274. 
Khomyakoff, 164. 
Khvoshtchinsky, 234. 
Kieff (keef), 1, 2, 7, 29, 36, 39, 41, 47, 

56, 61, 63, 67, 204, 207. 
Koltzoff, 142-145, 194, 204. 
Korolenko, 266. 
Kostomaroff, 230. 
Kotoshikin, 57. 
Kozma, Epistle to, 54. 




Krizhanitz, 58. 
Kronstadt, 273. 
Kryloff (kree-lof), 98. 109, 112, 124, 

Kurbsky, 53, 55- 
Kurotchkin, 210. 
Kyrill, 3. 
Kyrill of Novgorod, 40. 

Lermontoff, 116, 128, 138, 140, 150, 192. 
Lomonosoff, 57, 69, 72-5, 97, 113, 128, 

139, 140. 
Lyeskoff, 231. 

Maikoff, 140, 193. 

Makary, 48. 

Markovitch, 233. 

Marlinsky, 146. 

Matchtet, 266. 

Maxim, the Greek, 50. 

Melnikoff, 230. 

Merezhkovsky, 274. 

Methody, 3. 

Mikhailovitch, 57, 59, 61, 62. 

Minaeff, 210. 

Minsky, 274. 

Moghila (mo-ghe-la), 56, 61, 63. 

Moscow, 47, 48, 53, 55, 57, 61, 62, 63, 
67, 69, 72, 76, 84, 102, 139, 143, 164, 
167, 182, 186, 193, 210, 212, 215, 251. 

Most Holy Governing Synod, 59, 68. 

Mystery Plays, 63. 

Nadson, 272-73. 

Nekrasoff, 140, 161, 195-204, 209, 212. 

Nertchinsk, 200, 201. 

Nestor, 8, 40, 41. 

Nicholas I., 108, 206. 

Nikifor, 40. 

Nikitin, 209. 

Nikon, 58, 61. 

Nizhni Novgorod, 269. 

Novgorod, 2, 6, 7, 29, 62, 67. 

Oktoikh, 52. 
Olga, 41- 

Olonetz, 31, 36, 91. 
Orel (aryol), 164. 

Orenburg, 207, 209. 

Osten-Saken, 251. 

Ostromir, 6. 

Ostrovsky, 12, 161, 182-191. 

Ostrozhsky, 53. 

Ozeroff, 105. 

Panaeff, 140, 196. 

Patriarch, 58, 59, 62. 

Paul I., 91, 101. 

Peter the Great, 57, 58, 59, 66, 67, 70, 

75, "3- 
Petrashevsky, 209, 214, 215, 239. 
Pise m sky, 191. 
Pleshtcheef, 209, 210, 215. 
Polonsky, 194. 
Polotzky, 57, 59, 61, 63. 
Poltava, 147. 
Pososhkoff, 67. 
Potapenko, 267. 
Preobrazhensky, 91. 
Prokopovitch, 68, 69, 75, 85. 
Pushkin, 44, 92, 106, 109. 113-124, 126, 

128, 139, 142, 143, 146, 165, 188, 189, 
214, 229, 238. 

Razin Stenka, 33. 
Rostislaff, 3. 
Riirik, 2, 61. 
Russian News, 66. 
Rybnikoff, 31. 
Ryeshetnikoff, 237. 

Sadko, 31. 

St. Petersburg, 67, 73, 76, 80, 84, 126, 

129, 140, 143, 164, 167, 186, 195, 205, 
207, 210, 212, 255. 

Saltykoff, 238. 
Schelling, 138-39 
Shenshin, 193. 
Shevtchenko, 204-9, 233. 
Simbirsk, 161. 
Slavyanophils, 139. 
Smotritzky, 57. 
Solovieff, 230, 263. 
Sorotchfnsky, 147. 
Soshenko, 205. 



Spyeshneff, 215. 
Stepennaya Kniga, 61. 
Stoglava, 50. 
Sumarokoff, 75-8, 97, 181. 
Sylvester, 51, 54. 

Tamboff, 91. 

Tarakanoff, Princess, 230. 

Tashkentzians, 241. 

Tatar, 10, 33, 36, 47, 48. 

Tatishtcheff, 68, 70. 

Tauris, 158. 

Tchasosloff, 53. 

Tchekoff, 266. 

Tchernigoff, 67. 

Tchernyshevsky, 226. 

Tchetya Minaya, 49. 

Theatres, 63. 

Tiflfs, 126. 

Tiutcheff, 194. 

Tobolsk, 215. 

Tolstoy, A. K., 191-3. 

Tolstoy, L. N., 140, 141, 150, 161, 188, 

218, 233, 250-65. 
Trediakovsky, 68, 71. 
Tzarskoe Selo, 92, 114, 238. 
Turgeneff, 140, 161, 164-80, 190, 220, 

223, 250, 254. 
Tver, 217. 

Ufa, 141. 

Ukrafna, 156, 208, 270. 

Uspensky, 234, 236. 

Vasilievitch, 51. 

Vasily, 47, 51. 

Vilna, 205. 

Vladimir, 1, 7, 29, 30, 39, 97. 

Vladimir, Monomachus, 43. 

Voevoda, 56, 57. 

Volhynia, 53. 

Volkhoff, 76. 

Von Vizin, 82, 90, 150, 181. 

Voronezh, 142, 143. 

Vyatka, 239. 

Yaroslaff, 39. 
Yaroslavl, 76. 
Yavorsky, 68. 
Yazykoff, 123, 124. 
Yasnaya Polyana, 250-52. 

Zagoskin, 146, 229. 

Zaporozhian, 147. 

Zhemtchuzhnikoff, 210. 

Zhidyata, Luka, 39. 

Zhukovsky, 106, 108, 115, 124, 143, 150, 

192, 206, 208. 
Zizanie-Tustanovsky, 57. 
Zlatovratsky, 234, 236. 

NOV 24 1902 


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